Gove tells Opposition not to be selective with evidence. He needs to heed his own advice.

Janet Downs's picture
“It is important that Opposition Members are not selective in their use of evidence when they talk about academies and free schools, because academic results are improving faster in sponsored academies than in other schools, and the longer schools have enjoyed academy freedoms, the better they have done.”

Michael Gove, House of Commons 30 October 2013

But isn’t it the Education Secretary who’s being “selective” with the use of evidence?

Michael Gove compares sponsored academies with all other schools – he is, therefore, comparing a group of schools which were mostly under-performing ones in disadvantaged areas with all other secondary schools in England including selective grammar schools. The rate of improvement in the sponsored academies would, therefore, be calculated for a lower base.

The Education Secretary’s grasp of numeracy is often called into question. He confuses “expected” with “average”, he thinks 36% equals 100% and believes 4% of children with special needs at Durand Academy is far more than the primary school national average of 11%. So perhaps he needs a simple example.

Question: The results in a sponsored academy rise from 20% to 40% in three years. The results in a selective grammar school rise from 95% to 96% in the same period. Which school has the greatest improvement rate?

Answer: It’s blindingly obvious. It’s the sponsored academy.

Henry’s analysis shows that when sponsored academies are compared with similar non-academies over the same period of time, they perform no better, in fact slightly worse, than non-academies. The Academies Commission* confirmed this view: previously under-performing non-academies in poor areas did just as well as simlar sponsored academies . So what Gove should be saying is:

“Many previously underperforming non-academy schools in disadvantaged areas have done just as well as similar academies.”

Gove forgets that academy freedoms don’t actually amount to much – non-academies can do most of the things that academies can do, the Academies Commission* found. UK schools already had a considerable amount of freedom before the Coalition began saying the only way for schools to be “free” was to become an academy.

So, when Michael Gove tells others not to be selective with evidence he needs to take his own advice. Repeating inaccurate information ad nauseam doesn’t make it truth.

*It is now 9 months since the Academies Commission report but the Government hasn't responded yet.  What can possibly account for the delay?

EXTRA 13.24

Gove twice repeated the words of the Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt: “We are not going to go back to the old days of the local authority…they will not be in charge”,

But Gove knows that local authorities haven't been "in charge" of schools for decades.   How convenient for the Education Secretary that his shadow seems to be under the same misapprehension.

EXTRA 13.56

Gove said "He [Tristram Hunt] has refused to acknowledge that 50% of new local authority schools have been rated good or outstanding in the latest Ofsted ranking, whereas 75% of free schools have been ranked good or outstanding. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that where it counts, free schools are outperforming local authority schools."

I'm afraid the Education Secretary has lost me.  Perhaps somone could explain what he means by "new local authority schools".  Does he mean brand new schools which have been provided by local authorities?  If so, what timescale?  If he means from September 2011 when the first 24 free schools began then there can't have been many brand new LA schools opened since then - the Education Act 2011 told LAs that all new schools should be academies or free schools.

So, given that very few new LA schools can have been opened since September 2011, what was the size of the sample which were inspected by Ofsted?

Perhaps I'll have to ask the DfE.

EXTRA 14.40

Gove said, “…academies are properly regulated whereas local authority schools are not, according to the National Audit Office, regulated with anything like the same degree of intensity.”

Gove cited a 2011 National Audit Office (NAO) report to back up his claim.  But he forgot to mention the same report said LAs had to assure the DfE of its “system of audit for schools” on their annual statements from 2011/12.

So, Gove quoted from a two-year old NAO report without mentioning this new requirement.

And he seems to have forgotten the on-going NAO investigation into the Education Funding Agency, a division of the DfE.

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