Victory for TCF as Michael Gove forced to lie slightly less than before
Gove’s statement to parliament on the ‘O level’ leak contained this justification:
The sad truth is that, if we look at the objective measure of how we have done over the past 15 years, we find that on international league tables our schools fell in reading from 523 to 494 points, in maths from 529 to 492 and in science from 528 to 514.
Gove is referring to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, and the data he provides is correct.
This is interesting for two reasons.
1) This time around Gove relies on the raw score changes rather than on the international league tables which have been the focus of misinformation, dating right back to 2010, since when he and his department have relied heavily this false data to set out their case for education ‘reform’.
The dodgy league table data has been used repeatedly in the last week by Tories and their supporters, including Liz Truss MP, Toby Young (repeatedly on telly, I understand), Phillip Blond and Stephen Robinson so it is a surprise to see a sudden change of tack by Gove himself.
The change suggests strongly that he and his DfE team, complicit in the lies that have been so consistently peddled, have recognised that the game is up, and that they can no longer get away with it. This amounts to a victory for TCF and for others who have sought to bring the DfE’s disgraceful manipulations to public attention.
2) Nevertheless, Gove can’t bring himself to stop the lying completely. While it’s good that he’s abandoned the totally invalid claims about slippage in comparison to other countries, he continues to suggest a downward trend on UK scores which simply does not stand up to serious analysis.
As I’ve noted several times, no proper trend analysis between 2000 and 2009 is possible because the 2000 sample was not large enough to be statistically robust.
Moreover, the 2000 and 2003 tests were conducted some months earlier in school year 11 (Nov/Dec) than the 2006/2009 (March-May) as an exception in the international study (because they get in the way of GCSE preparations). As John Jerrim of the Institute of Education has noted, this makes a pretty obvious difference:
[I]t is important to understand that between November/December and March‐May of year 11 is likely to be a period when children add substantially to their knowledge of the PISA subjects as it is when pupils are working towards important national exams. Consequently, one should expect the year 11 pupils in the PISA 2000/2003 cohort to out‐perform their peer taking the test in 2006/2009 due to the extra five months they have had at school….. This would in turn suggest an overestimation of the decline in PISA maths scores over time.
Look at it the other way round. If scores in 2006/2009 had not been lower in 2009 than they were in 2000, a valid question might have been what the hell teachers and students learn during most of year 11.
So bizarrely, we’re left with a situation where Gove has been forced to lie a little bit less than he has done so far, but where he’s so dependent on the use of the PISA tables to defend his crackpot scheme that he’s still forced to mislead the House of Commons.