The Government’s education refoms are ‘evidence-based’, repeated School Reform Minister Nick Gibb
. But this isn’t true.
Three claims have been made recently by Gibb, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Prime Minister David Cameron. None is underpinned by evidence.
CLAIM (Gibb): removing levels from assessment at the end of primary school is backed up by evidence from ‘fast-improving countries’ like Singapore and Finland which don’t have levels.
But Finland’s education system didn’t improve quickly – it was the result of slow, steady reform
over decades. And Gibb seems unaware that most countries not only don’t have levels but they don’t have national exams at the end of primary school either. The OECD* found only four of the thirty-four OECD countries used such tests.
CLAIM (Morgan): Short breaks damage young people’s futures.
Morgan cited research which she said upheld her view that taking children away on short holidays during term had a significant negative effect on attainment. FullFact
looked at the research. It found pupils with high rates of absenteeism performed less well but illness caused 58% of school absence, not term-time holidays which accounted for just 11% (2012/13 figures). The research also found persistent absentees were more likely to have negative feelings about school or have been bullied.
CLAIM (Cameron): ‘All schools, in my view, should set by ability, particularly in English and maths.’
The Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit
, recommended by the Department for Education because it’s evidence-based, found that while ability setting could benefit high-attaining pupils it could have a negative effect on low-achievers or disadvantaged children. The OECD found high-performing school systems tended not to segregate children according to ability. In 2012, when the focus of the OECD’s PISA tests was maths, it found:
‘On average across OECD countries, the advantage in mathematics performance increased for students in schools that do not use ability grouping compared with students in schools where ability grouping is practiced in some or all classes.’ (p40
also found in the UK, only 6% of pupils are NOT ‘grouped by ability’ in maths classes. The OECD average for that measure is 49%. In South Korea it’s 28% and in Japan it’s 54%. Both countries significantly outperform the UK in maths.
These three discredited claims increase the number of claims already debunked on this site and elsewhere.
These include the lie that children leaving primary school with Level 3 are illiterate and innumerate
, the persistent myth that academies perform better than non-academies (see here
) and the zombie statistic
that the UK has plummeted down international league tables in a decade.
Further myths are debunked in our book School Myths: And the Evidence that Blows Them Apart
The NUT response to Cameron’s suggestion is here
*See faq above What are the examination and assessment systems in OECD countries?