Minister thumbs nose at watchdog warning

Janet Downs's picture

Gibb ignores statistics authority concern

Ignoring the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has become a habit with the Department for Education (DfE), particularly ministers. 

Schools minister Nick Gibb has again thumbed his nose at UKSA by failing to heed the watchdog’s concerns expressed in January about the way the DfE presented results of the five-yearly international reading test for 10-year-olds (PIRLS).

When the 2016 PIRLS results were announced in December 2017, a DfE press release claimed post-2010 policies had been responsible for a ‘dramatic improvement’ in PIRLS ranking between 2006 and 2016.  Gibb, in euphoric mood, penned a Telegraph article saying the PIRLS results gave official sanction to the ‘UK’s phonics revolution’.  

But these ministerial assertions omitted the 2011 results.  And it was in 2011 the real dramatic improvement had occurred. 

After I complained to UKSA, the watchdog said that ‘a more complete picture…would have been provided if England’s 2011 PIRLS figures had also been included in the release’.   

Gibb again omits 2011 PIRLS results to claim responsibility for England’s 2016 success

Nick Gibb has taken no notice of UKSA’s view.  In a press release dated yesterday he again cited the rise in England’s PIRLS performance from 2006 without mentioning the 2011 results.     And he wrote another Telegraph article which said:  

In an international survey of the reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England leapfrogged up the rankings last year after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to eighth. A key reason is phonics. ‘

But the leapfrogging occurred between 2006 and 2011 when ranking improved from 19th to joint 10th.

Gibb claims phonics not taught before 2010

Before 2010, children were taught to read using the “progressive” method. With this approach, children repeat words until they remember them (“Look John look. Look Janet look”) and from this are expected to absorb the full alphabetic code,’ Gibb confidently asserts.

If Gibb is correct, then the frogs which leapt up the PIRLS ranking between 2006 and 2011 had been taught reading with a method Gibb despises.

He isn’t right, of course, phonics was already embedded in England’s schools before 2010 and used with a combination of pedagogy, language and literature. 


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G's picture
Mon, 01/10/2018 - 22:20

Gibb’s a fraud. But he’s well versed in the tactic of repeating lies so often that eventually they become accepted.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 02/10/2018 - 08:04

I expect we'll hear a bumper repetition at the Tory conference.  No doubt they will be received with rapturous applause.

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 02/10/2018 - 20:10

Thanks for this, Janet. I have no idea why Gibb is allowed to repeatedly lie about statistics. As you have consistently pointed out on this site, even the Education Select Committee seems powerless to curb his b.s. I am about to remind my MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, there has been no reply to questions raised last summer about the KS2 SATs (last response 3 July - confirmed Gibb had not replied - still waiting!!!!). If our democracy matters, politicians have to be held to account and telling the truth, acknowledging when you have made a mistake and listening to others are crucial attributes, all of which are missing in the Minister.

As for the lies about our international standing on reading and even more elaborate lies about synthetic phonics and its supposed impact, parents have right to know what the truth is. Where is this leadership to come from?

This latest from Reclaiming Schools landed in my inbox earlier today. It endorses everything you write. I recommend others check it out. My only caveat is, don't try to comment on its content. The managers of Reclaiming Schools have this perverse practice whereby they invite comments but NEVER post them - very frustrating indeed.

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