Schools ministers have constantly hyped how much better schools are now than when Labour left office in 2010. But recent Ofsted figures show the rising trend in the proportion of good or better schools has tailed off. Only slightly, yes, and could be partly explained by Ofsted’s gaze falling on exempt outstanding schools. 84% of these which have been inspected since September have lost their top rating.
But schools minister Nick Gibb appears on the defensive.
‘These statistics show just how much better our school system is compared to nine years ago, with 85% of pupils attending schools rated good or outstanding compared to 66% in 2010.’
Gibb implies ‘better schools’ are a result of post-2010 reforms. But this is disingenuous.
First, the way Ofsted inspects schools has changed since 2010. There’s been more emphasis on schools less than good; outstanding schools were given exemption from inspection and Ofsted criteria has changed.
Secondly, the proportion of good or better schools in 2010* was not 66% but 68%. Ofsted changed its methodology last year but whatever method is used the figure in 2010 was 68%.
This figure hardly rose between 2010 and 2012 but was followed by a leap of ten percentage points between 2012 and 2014: 69% to 79%. Post-2010 policies would have had little time, if any, to have had much effect.
The rise in the proportion of good or better schools rose by a further eight percentage points to 87% in three years up to 2017 but then started to tail off.
Ministers should beware of trumpeting statistics to claim they, the politicians, are responsible for any rise in the carefully selected statistics. They may come back to bite them.
ADDENDUM: the DfE's top civil servant hopes to increase trust in DfE statistics, Schools Week reports. But it's not the stats which are normally at fault, it's the way politicians spin them.
*Quoted figures are for years ending 31 August.