Stop using ‘misleading’ inspection data, says former schools minister

Janet Downs's picture
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‘1.9 million more pupils in good or better schools’ claim is false

Former schools minister David Laws has told the Department for Education  to stop using the misleading claim that ‘1.9 million more pupils’ are in good or better schools since 2010.

Laws told the BBC:

When you take into account rising pupil numbers, the large quantity of schools not inspected for many years, and the possible impact of a new Ofsted grading system, it is simply impossible for this statistic to bear the weight that ministers want to place on it.’

Regurgitating misleading claim diverts attention for other problems

This site has constantly lambasted the DfE and ministers for using this statistic.  We wrote in February that spewing out the same stock phrase risks derision and diverts attention from urgent problems.    And only yesterday, I pointed out that the largest jump in the number of good or better schools happened in 2013 before Coalition reforms could have had any effect.

DfE has no problem with the claim

A DfE spokesperson defended the figure:

The facts are clear. The vast majority of pupils are in good or outstanding schools across the country, 1.9m more than in 2010, and an increase from 66% to 86% over that time.’*

More than a quarter of the rise is due to increased pupil numbers and school expansion

It’s true that the majority of pupils are in good or better schools.  And it was equally true in 2010 although it’s undeniable the number has risen.  But the Education Policy Institute where Laws is now executive chairman found ‘more than a quarter of the rise in pupils attending good or outstanding schools is accounted for by an absolute increase in pupil numbers and shifts in the schools which pupils attend.’

Many good or better schools have increased their Pupil Admission Number.  This obviously increases the number of pupils attending them.  But many will not have been inspected for eight or more years under different inspection criteria.

Stop pulling wool over parents’ eyes, says shadow SoS

The shadow education secretary Angela Rayner agreed with Laws.  The DfE should ‘abandon this misleading sound bite’ and ministers ‘should be honest with parents…instead of trying to pull the wool over their eyes.’

 

*Note:  Even that statement isn't wholly correct.  Ofsted revised data shows the proportion of good or better schools as at 31 August 2010 was 68% not 66%.

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