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Friday 22 February 2013

Gove Polecats Caught Cherrypicking

Still the @toryeducation Twitter feed rambles on, today jumping on a study from the Institute of Education (IoE) in London as proof that It Was All Labour’s Fault. Needless to say, things are not as cut and dried as the people who are not Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete (honestly) would like their audience to believe, not least because the IoE has said so.

So what’s in the IoE report? The headline, “Brightest English pupils fall two years behind Far Eastern peers between ages 10 and 16” is where @toryeducation is getting his cue. What the study has found is that, while the brightest pupils are doing almost as well as those from the Far East at age 10, they are falling back by the time they take their GCSEs.

The research also observes “The top 10 per cent of English children also appear to be losing ground to the most able pupils in other English-speaking and European countries between the ages of 10 and 16”. That is a less certain conclusion, and one look at the sources used for the study goes some way to explaining this: there is a mix of other research used for reference.

And, given that average scores for pupils between the ages of 10 and 16 are “broadly comparable” when looking at England versus the Far East, the blanket denunciation of Labour by @toryeducation is shown to be misplaced. In some Far Eastern countries, parents invest heavily in private tutoring and education is valued more highly. No Government is preventing parents here from doing the same.

So England “could perhaps do better for the top 10% of pupils” is the conclusion, and appropriate recommendations are made. Clearly, that is not what “Oiky” Gove and his retinue of polecats want to hear, and neither is a previous IoE headline, “No hard evidence that England has slid down international performance tables, study says”, from November 2011.

Moreover, that research was performed by John Jerrim, co-author of the paper that the @toryeducation account is lauding today. His past findings (see HERE [.pdf]) include (also from late 2011) that “One cannot firmly conclude that English secondary school children’s performance has improved or declined relative to that of its international competitors over the past decade”.

Dr Jerrim also observed “The decline seen by England in the PISA international rankings is not, in my opinion, statistically robust enough to base public policy upon”. As ever, this is not a subject where there are quick and easy answers, and once again one has to remind @toryeducation and his minders that they are playing with the future wellbeing of rather a lot of pupils.

So perhaps they could quit points scoring and messing around, just for once.

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