More shaky stats and ignored evidence from Morgan, and a promise to close ‘loopholes’ which allow people to fight academisation.

Janet Downs's picture
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is right: education gives children the foundation to succeed. Writing in the Telegraph, she says the Conservatives are ‘foursquare behind’ working people.

She waxes lyrical about the ‘one nation approach’ but her earlier remarks imply if you’re not working (even if illness, disability and lack of jobs prevent you) you’re not included.

102,000 more 6-year-olds are ‘on track’ towards reading properly, she writes. But ‘properly’ is too vague. And, as the UK Statistics Watchdog said when he censured Morgan’s illiteracy and innumeracy figures, a child with Level 3 CAN read.

Morgan states 90,000 more pupils took ‘core academic GCSEs’. These aren’t specified but figures for 2014 in England showed a rise in four EBacc subjects, Additional Science, Computing, Geography and English Literature, but a fall in Biology, Chemistry, English, French, German, History, Mathematics, Physics and Science*.

There are a million more pupils in Good or Outstanding schools than in 2010, she writes. Leave aside rising pupil numbers, it’s in the primary sector, where academies are in the minority, where the proportion of Good or better schools has risen. The proportion in the secondary sector, where over half are academies, has remained static.

Morgan again shows she doesn’t understand the significance of sample size. She trotted out the low proportion of pupils achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) in Knowsley’s six state secondary schools and compared this with Wirrall which has 22. She’s not comparing like with like: Knowsley is non-selective – Wirrall retains selection. And Wirrall is the second least deprived authority in the Liverpool region while Knowsley is one of the most deprived.

More academies are the solution, Morgan says. She will send hit squads into ‘failing’ schools and fast-track them to academy status. But evidence says academy conversion is not a magic bullet. Non-academies do as well as academies in similar circumstances. The Education Select Committee said politicians should stop exaggerating academy success. The National Audit Office found informal interventions such as local support was more effective (and far less expensive) than academy conversion.

But Morgan ignores this evidence – she knows her policy ‘works’. Schools have been ‘transformed’ by ‘swift academisation’, she says. Some have indeed – but not always for the better.

Schools like Downhills improved when they became academies, she writes. But Downhills primary was already improving - Ofsted monitoring said so until Gove decreed it was 'failing'. Ofsted obliged by reversing its judgement. SAT results had been rising and rose again to 67% achieving Level 4 in English and Maths in 2012 before conversion.

It isn’t possible to compare 2012 results with 2014 because of changes to SATs in 2013. But Morgan doesn’t appear to know this – she says the proportion of pupils leaving Downhills ‘able to read, write and add up properly’ has risen by more than 25%. But even if it were possible to compare, a rise from 67% in 2012 to 77% in 2014 is not an increase of ‘more than 25%'.

Morgan says Downhill’s conversion was held up by supporters of ‘the status quo’. She’s going to pass legislation to close ‘loopholes’ which allow parents and others to argue against forced conversion.

This, then, is the promised ‘one nation’- a country where laws will be passed to silence dissent and where schools are forced to submit to the Government’s blind adherence to a flawed policy. This is the ‘vision’ – the brave, new world.

NOTE * Numbers alone can be deceiving. The percentage of total entries for French, for example, remained at 3.3% despite the numbers taking French falling in 2014; in Maths, the percentage of total entries actually rose (by .1% from 13.9% in 2013 to 14% in 2014) yet the number taking Maths fell. But Morgan gave numbers, so the article above discusses only numbers.
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Sylvia HART's picture
Sun, 17/05/2015 - 17:24

Thank you for your views. I always enjoy reading them. I'm not a statistician but do agree with you on a great many issues. Keep up the good work. You tell it like it is.

Why should people not be able to air their views? I thought we lived in a free society. parents and local communities should have their voice heard and should be able to influence decision making. This smacks of bullying and can only lead to disillusionment of the people with the way the government works.

Bullying in any form is not acceptable and the government should listen to local people. Bullying is abuse of power.

They also have a responsibility to use statistics fairly and without prejudice so should ensure they get their facts and figures correct as they do themselves no favours by manipulating the data and showing a false picture. intelligent people will be able to see through their misrepresentation and will make them look like fools.

David Barry's picture
Sun, 17/05/2015 - 18:36

There is an interesting, relevant, article in Schools Week here:

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/05/2015 - 10:01

Thanks, David. As always, Laura McInerney asks pertinent questions about where the superheads and sponsors will come from, whether interventions will be transparent and what happens when sponsorship has already failed to improve an academy.

A cynic might say the Gov't will increasingly rely on for-profit firms. These will either receive contracts from academies which, like free school IES Breckland, outsource the day-to-day running to a for-profit education provider. Or for-profit firms will set up charitable 'vehicles' to divert money to the parent for-profit company which will offer a 'return' to investors (see here).

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/05/2015 - 10:25

According to the Mirror, there's been a teacher backlash against Morgan's comment on the Andrew Marr show that academies were better than council-run schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/05/2015 - 10:34

Brilliant comment by Mike Bell on Schools Improvement Net:

'Curious how the myth has perpetuated that somehow changing the type of school will improve results.'

'It's a bit like a cookery policy which changes the ovens from electric to gas in the expectation of better food.'

Leah K Stewart's picture
Tue, 19/05/2015 - 08:56

Hi Janet, I couldn't find a direct way to message you but wanted to point you to this post in case you have something to add - seems Roger has already been helpful but if you'd like to join in then feel free.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 22/05/2015 - 13:02

Thanks, Leah. Nancy Bailey's blog is one to watch.

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