UK Stats Watchdog criticises Education Secretary and schools minister for misusing stats at Tory Conference

Janet Downs's picture
Schools Minister, Sam Gyimah, told a meeting at the Tory Conference that when the Coalition came to power international test data for 2010 (PISA*) showed a third of English school leavers were ‘unable to read, write or do maths’.

But Sir Andrew Dilnot CBE, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, doesn’t agree. He has written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Sam Gyimah saying most emphatically:

‘The relevant test data for England in 2010 do not show that more than a third of school leavers are leaving school “unable to read, write or do maths”.’ (Sir Andrew's italics)

Sir Andrew also criticises Nicky Morgan who claimed in her Conference speech:

’13 years of Labour…and 1 in every third child finished primary school unable to read, write or add up.’

This was based on the incorrect assumption that any child who didn’t reach Level 4 in Key Stage 2 SATS was illiterate and innumerate. Being unable to reach Level 4 is ‘clearly not the same as being “unable to read, write or add up”,’ Sir Andrew wrote. (My italics)

This isn’t the first time the UK Statistics Watchdog has censured the Department for Education about its use of test data (here and here). But it seems schools ministers are happy to continue misusing test data to claim a third of English 11 year-olds and a third of school leavers are illiterate and innumerate. This is as unfair and it is untrue.

NOTE: Henry Stewart wrote about the misleading statements made at the Tory Conference here. The UK Statistics Authority confirms Henry's analysis of the dodgy data.

Try the LSN Stats Quiz to find out if you can handle stats as well as schools ministers and the DfE.

*Programme for International Student Assessment tests taken every three years.
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 04/12/2014 - 17:27

Nicky Morgan made the same dodgy claim in a speech to at B'Ham uni when she said she was 'angry that in 2010, 1 in 3 children finished primary school unable to read, write and add up properly'.

Of course she added 'properly' to the statement but it would be interesting to see if Sir Andrew Dilnot thought that not getting Level 4 in Sats meant inability to read 'properly' because that's a rather imprecise description.

Patrick Hadley's picture
Thu, 04/12/2014 - 21:53

There are two possible ways of looking at Nicky Morgan's comments, either: a) she believes them to be true; or b) she is deliberately telling a lie about the educational standards of our children.

I am not sure which is worse in a politician, dishonesty or ignorance, but I think that I would prefer to have a liar in charge of Education than one who knows so little about what goes in our schools that she thinks that, "1 in 3 children left primary school unable to read, write or add up."

Arthur Harada's picture
Fri, 05/12/2014 - 13:43

Poor Nicky-as usual mislead by her advisers/spin doctors @DfoE

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