Minister stoops to name-calling in education funding debate

Janet Downs's picture

Gibb clearly rattled by cuts evidence

Cuts in Lewisham, Warrington, Leigh, Suffolk, Devon, East Sussex, Bolton…

Cuts in Sure Start, sixth forms, further education, adult education…

Cuts overall in education funding in England…

Faced with this flood of evidence about cuts during yesterday’s debate  on education funding ,  it’s hardly surprising schools minister Nick Gibb became rattled.  Especially as he was reminded about the scathing criticism of the Department for Education by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA).   

Both Gibb and education secretary Damian Hinds refused to note the Institute for Fiscal Studies finding that education spending as a share of national income had fallen from 5.8 per cent to 4.3 per cent since 2010.  And Hinds said he couldn’t recall being criticised by UKSA four times.  Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner agreed with him – it wasn’t four times, but five.  She’d checked.

Criticised Ofsted figures cited again…and again

Attempting to divert discussion from cuts, cuts, cuts, Hinds said there were ‘more—many more—young people in schools rated good or outstanding…’

‘How many?’ asked Mike Kane (Lab).   Immediately came the answer: ‘1.9 million’.

While technically correct, UKSA has warned that presenting these inspection figures out of context risked being misleading.  But that didn’t stop Kwasi Kwarteng (Con) and Huw Merriman (Con) regurgitating the figures without context.   And while James Cartlidge (Con) acknowledged pupil numbers had risen, he didn’t mention the changes in the way Ofsted has inspected schools since 2010.  Nor the increasing number of outstanding schools which haven't been inspected for ten years or more.

‘Enemies of promise’ slur returns

Former education secretary Michael Gove was fond of accusing anyone who disagreed with him, however well-reasoned they were, as being ‘enemies of promise’. Gibb remembered this silly slur.  He described the last Labour government of being:

‘…complacent, ideological enemies of promise and close-knit friends of the vested interests [who] presided over grade inflation, falling standards and an education system that left too many children starting secondary school still struggling with reading and basic arithmetic…’

Most of Gibb’s speech, however, was devoted to what Labour had said ‘nothing’ about.  Nothing about learning time tables by heart (useful, yes, but being able to bark the answer to 7x8 doesn’t necessarily denote understanding).  Nothing about the reduction in the attainment gap (confirmed by DfE data but described as ‘wily statistics’ by Chris Rolph and Ella Jakeway writing on the Nottingham Institute of Education education blog* ).  Nothing about the proportion of pupils taking History and Geography GCSE rising to 77% in 2017, up from 48% in 2010 (I can find no data which supports this claim). Nothing about Progress 8 (which is fairer but discriminates against inclusive schools or those with an intake skewed toward previously low achieving pupils).

Gibb mentioned funding – he claimed the Government had ‘protected overall school funding for five to 16 year-olds’ and this was now at ‘a record ‘£42.4 billion’, 

But padding out his speech with what Labour said nothing about can’t hide this: education spending as a proportion of GDP has fallen since 2010.  And schools face a funding crisis.

UPDATE 17.01:  I have just received an email from UKSA which says the criticism of the DfE data by Chris Rolph and Ella Jakeway on the Nottingham Insistute of Education  blog 'do seem to be a bit misplaced'.

CORRECTION 17 November:  Chris Rolph, Principal Lecturer in the School of Social Science at Nottingham Trent University, tells me the views in the blog are his own and do necessarily not reflect the views of Nottingham Institutue of Education.  The article has been changed and this correction added to make this clear.


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G's picture
Thu, 15/11/2018 - 23:39

Didn’t think my opinion of Gibb could fall any further. It has.

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