Everyone knows the figures, boomed Lord Heseltine on Question Time
* last Thursday, 20% of pupils leaving primary schools are ‘by normal modern standards illiterate and innumerate’.
Lord Heseltine is speaking falsely. He’s followed the example of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and claimed pupils who don’t reach Level 4 in Key Stage 2 Sats can’t read and write. Morgan’s been rapped over the knuckles, not once but twice
, by the UK Statistics Watchdog, Sir Andrew Dilnot, for making this claim. It isn’t true.
Morgan tried to water down her statement by adding the vague word, ‘properly’. Prime Minister David Cameron did the same thing in his speech
at Kingsmead School.
The noble Lord discarded ‘properly’ and added ‘by normal modern standards’.
But, to repeat, a child reaching Level 3 can
read and write. The Statistics Watchdog
looked at published level descriptors and found children with Level 3 could ‘read a range of texts fluently and accurately’. They could produce written work that was ‘often organised, imaginative and clear’ and "add and subtract numbers with two digits mentally and numbers with three digits using written methods".
Someone who can ‘read a range of texts fluently and accurately’ is not illiterate.
Someone who can ‘add and subtract numbers with two digits mentally and numbers with three digits using written methods’ is not innumerate.
To claim otherwise is to keep alive a falsehood.
What other lies are being perpetuated?
First, the zombie statistic that the UK fell down education league tables under Labour. This is not true
. Yet Morgan told the Telegraph
‘the education system the Tories inherited was “chaotic, with Britain plummeting”’ on 1 February.
Second, the claim sponsored academies improve faster than other schools. This is a tricky one. The rate of improvement in sponsored academies is measured from a lower base so would be higher than improvement measured from a higher base. The Department of Education appears to have grasped this at last. A DfE source told the Guardian
, 'sponsored academies would improve faster because they had further to go’.
Perhaps the source should inform the Minister for School Reform, Nick Gibb, who told the Today
programme on 2 February: ‘Primary [sponsored academies]…have seen their reading, writing and maths results improve at double the rate of local authority schools.’ But as Warwick Mansell’s analysis
shows: ‘when schools with the same starting points in 2013 are compared, sponsored academies fared worse
than a comparison group of primaries in 2014’. This analysis confirms earlier number crunching by LSN’s Henry Stewart
Third, fourth, fifth… See my critique of Cameron’s recent speech
at Kingsmead School – a blatant piece of electioneering which may have flouted the requirement for schools to present controversial subjects such as politics in an even-handed way.
Perhaps it’s time to stop calling these falsehoods by euphemisms such as ‘misleading’, ‘misrepresentation’ or ‘misunderstanding’. Call them what they are – lies.
is available here
. Lord Heseltine's claim is about 41 minutes into the programme.
22 February 2015 13.53. Just found a Gove speech
in which he said a 'fifth' of primary school pupils left school without reaching the 'basic' level.
A fifth isn't a third.
He also said two-fifths of 16 year-olds didn't reach the 'basic' level in English and Maths because they didn't get a C grade. But 'basic' is defined by the Business and Skills Department, the Office of National Statistics and exam boards as Level One - that is GCSE grades D-G.
It appears Gove and other politicians are being both inaccurate and misleading when they raise the level of 'basic'.
It also appears that the ability of some politicians to do sums is rather low. Private Eye (20 February 2015) describes how Conservative MP Nadine Dorries told BBC's Daily Politics on 2 February that the Tories were doing 'incredibly well' at improving Ofsted judgements. The presenter said 23% of secondary schools being less than good was 'a very high number' - one in four schools.
But it was worse five years ago, Dorries replied. It was 'one in seven'.