Union misrepresented Select Committee Report on Academies, says chairman. But evidence suggests otherwise.

Janet Downs's picture
Tweets sent out by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) misrepresented the Education Select Committee report on Academies and Free Schools, writes the Committee’s chair, Graham Stuart MP, in a letter of complaint to the union*.

He was particularly annoyed by the NUT tweet quoting from the News Release which accompanied the report’s publication:

‘Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children.’

This was ‘highly selective’, said Stuart, because it was followed in the press release by a sentence which said:

'It is clear though that academisation has led to greater competition, challenging many maintained schools to improve and incentivising local authorities to develop speedier and more effective interventions in underperforming schools.'

Stuart was right – this sentence was in the press release. But it was not in the actual report.

The report said it was an aim for ‘a self-improving school system’ to ‘raise standards across the local area, either through competition or through collaboration’ (paragraph 46). But it did not say this aim had been fulfilled. Evidence pointed towards competition being seen as a driver (paragraph 47) not that it was a driver. The Committee contradicted this perception by citing the OECD - collaboration, not competition, was the ‘key’ (paragraph 47). It concluding that collaboration was ‘essential’ (paragraph 120).

The Committee was NOT’ clear’ that academisation had incentivised local authorities to intervene more speedily and effectively. Its finding was tentative – academisation may have been an incentive not that it was (paragraph 63).

It’s disappointing that a thoroughly researched report, which is described by Kevin Courtney*, NUT’s Deputy General Secretary, as ‘a solid piece of work’, should have been distorted in a press release to paint a more positive picture of academies than was presented in the report. It’s more disappointing that the Committee’s chair should have quoted from this misleading press release.

*The letter from Graham Stuart MP to the NUT and Kevin Courtney's reply can be downloaded here.
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 13/02/2015 - 14:22

The Chair does not appear to be properly representing the views of his committee, which are clearly and precisely set out in the report.

I wonder if the committee members are happy with this.

Kevin Courtney's reply is spot on.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/02/2015 - 14:34

Roger - what is also surprising is that the press release appears on the Education Select Committee's page on the Parliamentary website (sorry, I should have provided the link - it's here). And the sentence in the press release is attributed to the Chair, Graham Stuart.

But, as I said, this is not exactly what the report said.

John Mountford's picture
Sun, 15/02/2015 - 17:44

So, so sloppy from 'the Chair', can't we all agree? However, he is just a fallible politician after all. Janet, you are so, so good at getting to the 'meat' in these stories. Thanks, yet gain.

It smells to me like an attempt to deliberately deceive the public, and this in a lively democracy, too!

The most telling part of this is your revelation about the silly contradiction it throws up:
"Evidence pointed towards competition being seen as a driver (paragraph 47) not that it was a driver. The Committee contradicted this perception by citing the OECD – collaboration, not competition, was the ‘key’ (paragraph 47). It concluding that collaboration was ‘essential’ (paragraph 120)." - See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/02/union-misrepresented-selec...

Makes another strong case for 'The Alternative Rule Idea' namely, 'If the evidence doesn't fit, either ignore it or change it.

Didn't it occur to whoever wrote this that they are being monitored by members of the public who don't trust them? Do they not get it that this is happening simply BECAUSE they stretch the facts (tell blatant lies) so often and without proper challenge from the media that someone has to clean up the mess?

Could be that the Chair, to whom the press release is attributed, couldn't remember what it was he was reporting on? Could this be an ideal opportunity to give the drive to remove politics from education governance a shove in the right direction? A bit of an 'own goal', so to speak.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 16:22

The New Schools Network also spins the report saying:

'The Commons Education Committee this week released a report stating that 'the overall state of schools has improved during the course of the academisation programme' and that the competitive effect of new schools in the state system may have led Local Authorities to develop more effective interventions when it comes to tackling under performance in their schools.'

Four points:

1 Correlation isn't causation. Just because schools have 'improved' at the same time as the academisation programme, doesn't mean it was caused by the academies programme.

2 Ofsted said secondary schools hadn't improved but stalled. The majority of secondary schools are academies. Any 'improvement' is in the primary sector where the majority of schools are not academies.

3 The word 'may' implies doubt.

4 The Ed Select Committee said collaboration was essential and cited the OECD as saying it was the 'key'.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 17/02/2015 - 18:21

I loved this one from your link, Janet:

"An article in The Spectator argues that the academy and free school programme is the one real success of the current Conservative government."

In that case, I guess if the truth does finally get seen in the full light of day via national media outlets, the jig will be up, so to speak. What a statement to make!! But I suppose it's fine as it is in support of the Labour initiative to bless the nation with new school structures all those years ago.

It's daft. We covered this whole Ministry of Truth thing in an earlier thread from a slightly different angle.


Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 18/02/2015 - 08:11

John - the New Schools Network article was interesting for two further reasons:

1 It inadvertently implies the academies/free school programme is the one and only success of the current Gov't (and that, of course, can be contested).

2 The NSN is steering a fine line between remaining neutral (which, as a charity, it must do) and promoting the Tories. It's already been warned twice not to be partisan. But by linking to a paper it could argue it was just letting readers know when academies/free schools or the NSN is in the news.

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