This is a post by Janet Downs, who had trouble logging in.
How fair was reporting about the recent OECD on British education? FullFact.org analysed articles in the Daily Mail and The Spectator and discovered that although both papers had been accurate in the items they had chosen to highlight there were omissions. Both had used the report to paint a negative picture of the state of education in the UK. The Spectator went so far as to say that the OECD report was “rather a staggering indictment of Tony Blair’s ‘education, education’ education’ policy” while the Mail concluded that the OECD concerns about grade inflation “have hidden a true picture of failure in our schools.”
What neither paper said was that OECD did not confirm that UK schools were failing – they reported that “average PISA test scores… for the UK are close to the OECD average… [but] they trail strong performers such as Finland. Average performance among 10-year-olds, as measured by PIRLS and TIMSS scores is however relatively strong in an OECD perspective.*”
The Mail also accurately reported the issue of disadvantaged children not receiving adequate support.
However, the paper didn’t reveal OECD concerns that government reforms to tackle this issue could be inadequate. Both papers also accurately summarised the OECD’s support for academies and free schools, believing them to increase parental support. But they both omitted OECD concerns that the positive effects of user choice “could potentially lead to segregation.”
These papers weren’t alone in skimming the report to find quotes to vindicate a particular opinion. Nadhim Zawahi (Con) MP asked Mr Gove if the report was a “sad indictment of the past 13 years of Labour.” He replied, “I read the OECD report with a mounting sense of sadness. It made the case forcefully by the deployment of facts and argument in a remorseless fashion that under the previous Government, for all the welcome additional spending on schools, standards had not risen to anything like the expected level… (There is more, much more – the Speaker had to intervene).
Mr Gove used an answer to an obviously planted question to attack Labour while overlooking OECD concerns about possible negative effects of his policies.
Gove paid no heed to the clear conclusion of the OECD that UK education was not failing. One has to suspect a Secretary of State for Education when he cynically distorts data in this way.
*page 97 OECD Economic Surveys: United Kingdom (I expanded the quote given by FullFact.Org, so I felt I needed to give the source)
POSTSCRIPT: 20 June 2017. The above article differs slightly from the original posted. The changes are cosmetic (eg italicising the names of the papers, putting key sentences in bold) or to remove a duplicated sentence in the original (the last one). The substance remains unchanged.