Morgan thumbs nose at UK Stats Watchdog as she repeats discredited data in CBI speech

Janet Downs's picture

The last Labour government ‘let down young people, as PISA showed us that between 2000 and 2009 the UK fell further and further behind the countries with the highest educational standards’, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told the CBI yesterday. But Morgan was using data which had been discredited. In December 2010, the Department of Education (DfE) released a notorious press release which made the same claim – the UK had plummeted down the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tables since 2000. But the organisation which set the PISA tests, the OECD, had given an explicit warning that PISA data for the UK in 2000 was faulty and should NOT be used for comparison. The DfE and the then Education Secretary Michael Gove ignored this warning. Worse, Gove based his entire education reform programme on this discredited data. After a long campaign by Full Fact and this site among others, the UK Statistics Authority expressed concern about the use of PISA data by the DfE and reminded the department that its use of statistics should meet official standards. Apart from occasional blips by Tory politicians and the odd journalist, false comparisons between PISA 2000 and 2009 declined. That was until yesterday when Morgan, in an increasingly desperate attempt to promote academy conversion, thumbed her nose at both the OECD and the UK Statistics watchdog to resurrect the faulty figures. Again and again, Morgan reveals her woeful (or is it wilful?) ignorance of statistics. She’s been censured before for dodgy use of data. And it keeps on coming. In recent weeks we’ve heard misleading statements about sponsored academies, the rewriting of history and a dizzy increase in DfE spin to the extent that those opposing academy conversion are described as rabid mobs. But when Morgan revives long-discredited data, it implies desperation. It’s no longer possible to ignore the fact that academy success has been exaggerated so Morgan resurrects a false claim to divert attention away from this inconvenient truth. Morgan ends with a plea for employers to become involved in academies. But there are thousands upon thousands of schools which are not academies. Are these schools to be ignored? She wants employers to contact the New Schools Network, the taxpayer-funded charity, about setting up free schools. But there are thousands upon thousands of existing schools for employers to work with. My advice to employers is to ignore Morgan’s advice and lobby for a properly-funded, professional careers service, for high-quality careers education and guidance in schools and less emphasis on test results. And support the CBI’s call for GCSEs to be scrapped in favour of graduation at 18 via multiple routes. Employers and schools can work together for mutual benefit. In the bygone days of the Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative (TVEI), schools relied on employers to provide good quality work experience; to mount mock interviews; to help with Industry Days and to give career-specific advice to interested pupils. This was of more direct benefit to a larger number of pupils than employer involvement in just one academy or free school.

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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 12/11/2015 - 12:55

UPDATE: Seems Morgan is not alone in being censured by the UK Stats Authority. The watchdog called Cameron's use of unpublished data in his EU migrants and benefits speech 'disappointing' and 'unsatisfactory'. Cameron's use of stats which were not in the public domain shut down discussion and analysis.. Full Fact has formally complained to the Authority.

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