Head of Ofsted lied about GCSE standards


10:30 am - September 3rd 2012

by Paul Cotterill    


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Yesterday morning on the Marr show (from 28 mins 30 secs), the Head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw defended ‘rigourous’ GCSEs in this way:

Let’s just take reading, and English is the world language, the business language. We know that we’ve fallen from 7th in reading, to 25th in the world.

This is pretty well the same as he said on the BBC six months ago, and it remains as much a lie as it was then. It is a lie for several now well-established reasons and Wilshaw must surely be aware of this.

Simply repeating lies does not make them true.

Sir Michael Wilshaw is a fucking disgrace. The first act of an incoming Labour Secretary State for Education should be to fire him.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Reader comments


There’s no wonder. Andrew Marr doesn’t challenge anyone’s claims. Just look at the cobblers spouted by Osborne yesterday, all greeted with Marr’s cap-doffing & forelock-tugging

I didn’t hear Wilshaw six months ago and I don’t have TV so I didn’t watch the Andrew Marr show on Sunday. What worries me are news reports like this from a year ago:

Almost half of all employers have paid for remedial training for school and college leavers who lack a basic grasp of English and maths, according to the CBI.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/may/09/cbi-criticises-schools-literacy-numeracy

Bob B says: “Almost half of all employers have paid for remedial training for school and college leavers who lack a basic grasp of English and maths, according to the CBI.”

What that article actually says is that:
“survey of more than 500 firms shows that 42% are dissatisfied with school leavers’ use of English, and more than a third are concerned about numeracy. Twelve per cent of employers provided remedial literacy training for graduates. ”

So whilst it isn’t good enough that nearly half of employers in the survey are dissatisfied with the English of school leavers, (not necessarily those they’ve recruited), it is apparently untrue that almost half of employers have provided remedial training for school and college leavers. Only 12% have done this.

Claire

Thanks for the correction – I take it that you will be taking this up with Guardian sub-editors. The public concern is that while 42 pc of employers were dissatisfied with school leavers’ use of English, and more than a third are concerned about numeracy.

The figure of 12pc relates to employers paying for the remedial training of graduates.

A few years back, the HoC Public Accounts Committee made a more stringent assessment:

An “unacceptably” high number of people in England cannot read, write and count properly, MPs have warned.

The Public Accounts Committee said in 2007 51,000 pupils left school without a GCSE of at least D-G in maths and 39,000 left without this in English.

The report into adult literacy and numeracy also warned that only one in five offenders with poor basic skills had enrolled on a course to help them. [BBC website 2009]

As for standards in primary schools:

“The National Curriculum test results also revealed that in spite of an improvement in English and maths, more than a third of pupils still left primary school without a proper grasp of the basics in reading, writing and maths.” [August 2010]
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ba881948-9f3f-11df-8732-00144feabdc0.html

Whatever else, there is no scope for complacency about schooling standards.

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 Claire

I also suspect that a certain amount of professional whingers will automatically tick “unsatisified” at every opportunity they get. It’s similar to the fact that surveys always show that people think crime is rising, despite the evidence.

Chaise:

Whether crime is falling or not depends on the data source. Try this from the Home Office press release in March this year:

– Latest figures from the 2011/12 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) show no change in overall crime against adults compared with the 2010/11 survey. Crimes recorded by the police fell by 4 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12.

– CSEW crime has remained at the same level in the last three years. Prior to this there were large reductions between the 1995 and 2004/05 CSEW, after which the rate of decline slowed. Police recorded crime has continued to show annual reductions since 2004/05.

– Whilst most categories of police recorded crime fell in 2011/12 compared with 2010/11, there was a 2 per cent increase in other theft offences. This was driven principally by rises in theft of unattended property, theft from the person, bicycle theft and shoplifting.
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/crime-stats/crime-statistics/period-ending-march-2012/stb-crime-stats-end-march-2012.html

I recall discussing crime stats with academic colleagues back in the 1960s. The consensus then was that Police recorded crime figures were unreliable because of both reporting and recording errors. We need to consider the motives for reporting and not reporting and how the police choose to record crime.

As far as I can see, Wilshaw is telling the truth in terms of the stats, it is just that there isn’t much difference between 13th and 23rd in the table he references. He could be a bit more honest by clarifying that but equal 13th is still a fall and arguably much more likely to be criticised by others on the grounds that it is not an accurate reflection of his source.

Are you seriously accusing him of lying or just letting off steam because you don’t like the idea of more challenging exams?

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 6 Bob B

I agree that it’s hard to measure, and a change in policy can have a marked effect on the stats without actually changing public behaviour. Still, what evidence there is generally points to a decline or, in the cases you cite, stagnation. And yet everyone says it’s rising. I’ve got a couple of ideas why:

1) People like whinging.
2) It’s easier to remember several shocking crimes from this month’s papers than from the papers last year, or ten years ago.

Frankly, I’m not much bothered about whether Wilshaw was lying or not but I sure am concerned over the serial reports about the poor standards of schooling in many parts of Britain. I exempt my local education authority (LEA) from complaints as it comes at or near the top of the LEA league table based on average results in the GCSE exams with boring regularity. As I keep posting, two maintained boys schools within walking distance of where I sit achieve better average A-level results than Eton.

Paul

As evidence for this lie, you state:

Chinese Taipei and Denmak have “exactly the same score” (495) as the UK and are ahead due to alphabet only.

I’m afraid it is you that has lied. Figure 1.2.15 clearly shows that the UK scored 494, not 495 as you claim.

Why have you done this? Did you mis-read the data? Did you hope no one would check?

As you say, simply repeating a lie does not make it true. I trust you will amend this article and the item you link to.

11. Robin Levett

@LondonJ #10:

Chinese Taipei and Denmak have “exactly the same score” (495) as the UK and are ahead due to alphabet only.

Paul is wrong to say this; what he should have said is:

Chinese Taipei and Denmak have “exactly the same score” (495) as England and are ahead due to alphabet only.

The OECD numbers are for the UK as a whole; the NfER analysis is for England.

Having said that, statistically 494 and 495 are “exactly the same score”; there is no statistically significant difference between the scores.

@11

So we both agree that Paul is wrong. And let’s be clear he is wrong on the number 1 point he raises.

I suspect he is too embarrassed to return here to debate this. But if he does then I will address the other issues he raises which include:

1 – You cannot object to the Coalition’s employment policy to make it easier to fire an will employee on one-hand and then write in a public forum that sacking Sir Michael should be the first priority of a Labour Government.

2 – The principle claim Paul makes that Sir Michael has lied. The most one can claim is that Sir Michael has quoted from a report that has flaws in it stats. To say Sir Michael lied, Paul must offer evidence that Sir M mis-represented data in the report. No such evidence is being offered.

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 LondonJ

“So we both agree that Paul is wrong. And let’s be clear he is wrong on the number 1 point he raises.

I suspect he is too embarrassed to return here to debate this.”

The number one point he raises is that two countries were placed above England because they come first in the alphabet. In any case, Paul’s mistake doesn’t change the claim that Wilshaw is conflating the UK and England and getting garbage stats as a result. The fact that Paul made the same mistake is a little embarrassing, but pretend that this undermines the entire argument is silly. The argument remains the same if Paul is removed from the equation entirely.

“You cannot object to the Coalition’s employment policy to make it easier to fire an will employee on one-hand and then write in a public forum that sacking Sir Michael should be the first priority of a Labour Government.”

This is utterly specious.

Policy on employment is more complex than a slider between “give people no employment rights” and “make everyone unsackable”. You can want workers in general to be harder to sack, and still call for the firing of a public figure you believe to be dishonest or incompetent.

“The principle claim Paul makes that Sir Michael has lied. The most one can claim is that Sir Michael has quoted from a report that has flaws in it stats. To say Sir Michael lied, Paul must offer evidence that Sir M mis-represented data in the report.”

A fair point, although if the criticisms are true, the fact that he’s been repeating the claim for at least half a year raises questions.

Muslim schooling is on the rise in the West. Anti-Muslim attitudes in state schools contribute to its growth. there are 240 to 250 private Islamic schools in the U.S and 166 Muslim schools in the United Kingdom and out of that 11 are ste funded. The increasing enrollment in these schools reflects the religion’s growing number of Muslims and the desire of parents to shelter young Muslims from discrimination and discomfort they might encounter at state schools. But Islamic schools, like mosques and other Islamic institutions, can be viewed with distrust and even hostility. Jewish Schools in Israel teach Children about Evolution. They has a curious way of teaching it. They said the Jews were made by god and the Palestinians evolved from apes. On the other hand, Muslim schools teach children that human beings are from Adam and Eve(peace be upon them).
It’s very important … for Muslim kids to be able to go to a school that affirms who they are and allows the creative space to be comfortable being Muslim. In an Islamic school they have a feeling of pride … minus some of the other things they might encounter. The Islamic School League of America (ISLA), a nonprofit that connects Muslim educators and institutions, estimates that 40,000 students are enrolled in Islamic schools in the United States, a 25 percent increase from 2006. Those numbers are expected to keep growing as new schools open and existing schools expand.
There are plenty of challenges to start-up schools, not least of which is persuading potential students and their parents that the school is academically up to snuff. If you’re dealing with immigrants, you’re dealing with post-colonial attitudes, in many of their countries of origin, The way to move upward was through Western schools. … (In the past) they saw Islamic schools as not where they should put their students if they want their kids to end up in Harvard or in Oxford.

Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools.
There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.
Iftikhar Ahmad
http://www.londonschoolofislamic.sorg.uk


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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