Dodgy literacy data and disputed NSN research cited by Tory MP yesterday

Janet Downs's picture

Maria Miller MP (Basingstoke, Con) heaped fulsome praise on the head of the Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb during a Commons debate yesterday.  He had done a ‘tremendous job’ in moving from the ‘unacceptable situation in which one in three young people was leaving primary school without the basic ability to read’.

Miller was referring to Key Stage 2 test results taken in May 2010 when Labour had just been voted out.  These showed 83% of pupils reached the expected Level 4 in reading.  83% does not mean one-in-three failed to reach Level 4.  If one-in-three had failed to reach Level 4 then the pass rate would have been 66%.

In any case, failing to reach Level 4 was not a sign of inability to read as the UK Statistics Authority pointed out in late 2014 after the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan claimed ‘one in three of our young people were leaving primary school unable to read and write’ under Labour.  Pupils achieving Level 3 could ‘read a range of texts fluently and accurately.’  Being able to read to that standard is not lacking ‘the basic ability to read’.

In 2010, 91% of 11-year-olds reached Level 3 or above. Far from one-in-three not being able to reach a basic standard of reading, nine-in-ten could read fluently and accurately  One-in-ten didn't reach this standard.  One-in-ten is not the same as one-in-three.

Millar doesn’t stop at praising Nick Gibb.  She cites the ‘excellent research’ done by the New Schools Network (NSN) which showed the introduction of the EBacc had had no negative effect on pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE.   This report was contested at the time because it left out Design and Technology GCSE and Ofqual figures for 2013 to 2016 actually suggested a downward not an upward or static trend*.

Figures published last week and summarised in Schools Week (23 June 2017, not yet available online) show entries for ‘every single non-EBacc subject declined in 2017’.  This was despite overall entry numbers for GCSE rising by 3%.  The data shows a ‘considerable drop’ in GCSE entries for creative subjects:

Performing Arts – DOWN by 20%

Design and Technology – DOWN by 11%

Drama – DOWN by 10%

Music – DOWN by 8%

Art and Design – DOWN by 5%

Millar was right to say ‘our creative industries are world-renowned and we must ensure that that continues.’  But GCSE reforms are working against this.

*See my comment 11 February 2017 under Schools Week article.





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