DfE admits Nick Gibb misled us on Today programme

Henry Stewart's picture

On Radio 4's Today programme on 24th March, Schools Minister Nick Gibb claimed that by 2022, "even on current trends", the "vast majority" of schools would be academies anyway. He went further: "If we look ahead to six years time we will be in the position where something like three quarters of schools will be academies."

Both these statements are false. As I wrote at the time, if you project current trends forward then neither three-quarters nor half would have become academies by 2022.

Curious about how he could come to that conclusion I submitted a Freedom of Information request, asking for the data that he used for this statement.

The DfE response is revealing: "The comment made by the Minister was based on an assumption that if current trends continue, in secondary schools becoming academies, then over three quarters of secondary schools will have become academies by 2022."

This is true. But Nick Gibb did not refer to secondary schools but to all schools. Indeed his statement only made sense if he was talking about all schools, as he was justifying a policy of converting all schools to academies - not just secondary schools.

Which leaves the question I asked at the time: do government ministers just make up their facts on the spur of the moment?


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Jane Eades's picture
Tue, 19/04/2016 - 19:57

I suspect it has much to do with trying to scare schools into jumping, rather than being pushed.  It is clear that there are governing bodies and head teachers who have decided that they will cave in and do the best deal they can.  Fortunately, there are others who are prepared to hold their ground.

John Fowler's picture
Tue, 19/04/2016 - 20:50

Thanks Henry. Great work. Interesting that the DfE did not give the oft used "it was a prediction not a projection" (which I first learnt from a civil servant 15 years ago). Perhaps the DfE is at long last getting wary of the UK Statistics Authority and prefers to "correct" Ministerial errors at the first opportunity, but admittedly after the incorrect information has been broadcast.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 20/04/2016 - 08:47

And only after someone challenges Ministerial statements, it appears.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 20/04/2016 - 08:46

It's not the first time ministers have mixed up different types of academies (ie sponsored and converter).  For example, Nicky Morgan used figures for sponsored primary academies as if they applied to all primary academies in her now notorious Mumsnet guest post which was speared by Radio 4's 'More of Less'.  

Unfortunately, by the time the truth is discovered, the misrepresentation has become 'truth'.

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