The Department for Education (DfE) said it could spot bogus submissions to its consultations, it told Schools Week. A spokesperson said there were ‘a range of measures in place to identify responses that are not genuine’ but didn’t go into details about what these were.
Schools Week gave an example of how the DfE had been able to discover suspect responses. Analysis of submissions to the proposed Independent School Standards found that 900 were from the same campaigning organisation all using almost identical wording.
My bogus submissions to the short survey about grammar schools would easily be noticed. I used obviously fictitious names. And I wasn’t trying to manipulate the results because I didn’t answer the questions.
But anyone determined to skew the results of the grammar school survey would be difficult to detect. The survey doesn’t require email addresses – they’re optional. It’s set up to allow multiple responses from the same computer. It’s possible to submit very short responses which could easily be changed for every submission.
Such multiple, fictitious responses could easily get under the radar. This renders the consultation results null and void. This applies whether the responses are mainly for or against the proposals. The results cannot be relied upon.