Verdict on Labour's 12 year record

07 Dec 2009

 It is astonishing how some parts of the media are so determined to attack the Labour government that they can turn evidence on its head. 

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published an analysis of the school system from 1996 -2008. It showed that over this period the resources going into schools (such as the number of teachers, classroom assistants and books) have risen by over 30%.

At the same time the 'outputs' of schools (measured by the numbers of children being educated, attendance rates and GCSE grades) also rose by over 30%.

So: more being put into schools and more coming out. Sounds like good news?

But not according to The Daily Mail and The Times. The former described it as a 'damning indictment' of Labour's record and the latter's headline was ' Labour's £30 billion annual spending on schools fails to boost standards'.    

Of course, as with any statistical analysis, it is possible to argue with the conclusions. For example, the main factor used by the ONS to determine output standards was GCSE grades. This means, for example, the analysis does not use any measure of primary school standards. 

It can also be argued that the improvement in GCSE grades (equivalent to two extra passes at grade C per pupil) is not enough.  

The ONS, appropriately for an impartial statistical body, does not make judgements on its data.

To judge education in terms of 'inputs' and 'outputs', as if it were the economy, clearly has some shortcomings, which the ONS acknowledges. 

But to write the sort of stories and headlines that appeared suggests a determination to conduct a political attack on state schools which is not supported by the evidence.

Far too often parts of the media fall into a Pavlovian attack on state schools, suggesting - despite the evidence - that things have never been worse.

Of course, there is much that needs to be better. We may indeed not be making as much progress as other countries. But to suggest that our school system has not benefited from the huge extra investment that has gone in over the past few years is to take a very blinkered approach.  

I am all for holding governments to account but let's at least look at the evidence.  

To read more about the ONS report see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8396423.stm  

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