The Prime Minister’s speech at Kingsmead School was widely reported
. But the transcript was difficult to find. It wasn’t in Department for Education press releases; it wasn’t on the Government’s GovUK website.
Regular contributor agov found Cameron's speech – it was a press release on Conservatives.com (thanks, agov).
It appears, then, this wasn’t a regular puff speech of the sort made by ex-Education Secretary, Michael Gove, when he outlined Government policy. It was a campaigning speech with Cameron standing in front of a huge poster
pushing Tory ‘commitments’.
Schools have a statutory duty not to be partisan when discussing such things as politics. Canvassing before pupils in a school hall during school time would seem to flout this duty.
That said, Cameron’s speech was full of holes.
1When Tories came to power ‘some’ school leavers could ‘barely read or write’. In 2009
, 94.5% of state school leavers gained a Level One English and Maths qualification – this shows someone can function in literacy and numeracy.
2‘We’ve got schools that didn’t exist three years ago getting as many pupils into Oxbridge as private schools’. Cameron’s referring to the London Academy of Excellence (plugged later in the speech). But the LAE is highly selective and has been accused of removing pupils
deemed not to be ‘Russell Group ready’ at the end of their first year.
3‘…we have academies which had no pupils getting the five good GCSEs [in 2009] now seeing eight in ten reach that mark.’ This doesn’t refer to ‘academies’ (plural) but one (singular) – St Luke’s CofE, the predecessor school to Ark’s Charter Academy (named and praised later). But it’s untrue to say no pupil gained five GCSEs C or above in 2009 –22%
did so. That's poor. But it’s not 0%. And Schools Week
found the GCSE results for Charter Academy weren’t as good as it appeared. 83% reached the benchmark but the average grade over 8 subjects was just C-.
4‘…we can protect the schools budget…’. The ‘flat cash per pupil’ will not be cut. But this means a reduction in spending
5‘We inherited a situation where one in three children left primary school unable to read, write and add up properly’. The word ‘properly’ is too vague to be meaningful. And as Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has been told twice
– children who reach a Level 3 can read and write.
6The Government will expect ‘85% of a school’s pupils [to] reach a good level of attainment, or are on their way to getting there’. What’s a ‘good level of attainment’ in literacy and numeracy? Is it Level 4? If it is, then isn’t Level 3 ‘on their way to getting there’?
7‘We will turn every failing and coasting secondary school into an Academy’. But the Education Select Committee
found ‘Academisation is not always successful nor is it the only proven alternative for a struggling school.’ The National Audit Office
found informal interventions such as arranging support were more effective than formal interventions such as sponsoring academies. And Ofsted
said improvement in the heavily-academized secondary sector had stalled while the proportion of schools judged good or better was rising in the primary sector where academies are a small minority.
8 ‘Free schools…are more likely to be good or outstanding than other schools’. Ofsted
Annual Report 2013/14 said it’s too early to judge the overall performance of free schools as a group – their ‘profile of inspection judgements’ was ‘similar’ to other schools.
9 ‘British schools fell down the league tables for maths and science’ before the Coalition came to power. This is not true. UK pupils did not 'plummet' down league tables
. And English pupils were the top of the European league
in the Trends in Maths and Science Survey.
Cameron’s speech to school children, presumably corralled to make a submissive audience, was full of misrepresentation and dubious statements. Let’s hope his young listeners saw through the electioneering.
3 March 2015 10.03. The above has been changed. I said results at Charter Academy's predecessor school in 2009 were 8%. That was incorrect. The proportion reaching the benchmark 5 GCSEs A*-C including Maths and English was 22%. The 8% figure was for 1999 when the benchmark didn't have to include Maths and English. Apologies for giving the impression that results at St Luke's were worse than they were.