Free schools – The Stats

Two reader submitted articles today and this is one of them.  Keep them coming.

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

This Government has often been criticised by the Office for National Statistics for the way in which it mis-uses statistics in support of its own policies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of education and no Minister has been more complicit in this practise than the ex Minister Michael Gove, but then he was a leader writer on the Times before he achieved stardom, so perhaps it came easily to him.

Mr Gove’s extravagant claims on behalf of Free Schools have now been exposed as being statistically flawed by his own Ministry, the Department for Education (DfE).  He had claimed that Free schools were twice as likely to be rated as outstanding as other schools, with 21% of free schools achieving that rating compared with 10% of other schools inspected in the same manner.

The DfE report then dissected these figures pointing out, for instance, that “outstanding” schools were not regularly inspected once they had achieved that ranking and that the samples of Ofsted inspections (62 free schools compared to 20,000 other schools) needed to be taken into account.

The same report also recognises the brief existence of free schools and says “… BEGIN to judge the performance of free schools” – in other words, they have not been accurately judged yet!

This view contrasts significantly from the grandiose statement of Mr Gove when he wrote that: “We are determined to deliver the best schools and skills for our young people, and free schools are achieving exactly that”.

Now, where have we heard similar extravagant claims being made by other (local) proponents of the Free School Movement?  It seems there are lies, damned lies and statistics, and perpetuating these for one’s own ends, even when shown to be incorrect, is a little Machiavellian.

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