With thanks to Labour’s media monitoring department, and to the Financial Times, here is the first’s account of the second’s report today on school standards.
‘Poorer pupils seen to be catching up in exams’ (FT p4) – Poorer children closed the educational achievement gap on children from wealthier backgrounds during Labour’s last term of office, according to a comprehensive Financial Times analysis of exam results achieved by 3m 16 year-olds over five years, writes Cook. When looking at a basket of core GCSE qualifications – sciences, modern languages, maths, English, history and geography – the FT found a sustained improvement in the results achieved by children from the poorest neighbourhoods. Between 2006 and 2010, after stripping out the effects of grade inflation, the bottom of the distribution shifted upwards: the gap closed by one sixth of a grade in every one of these GCSE subjects. There was no significant change in the number of these subjects sat by these pupils. Lord Adonis: ‘These findings testify to a decade of radical school reform. They are the result of more and better teachers, stronger school leadership, a relentless focus on literacy and numeracy, more choice for parents and pupils, and the introduction of specialist schools and academies.’ A spokesperson for Clegg welcomed the news. But the spokesperson added that the current govt is attempting to improve mobility “at every point in the life cycle”, taking action both earlier and later in a child’s life than at secondary school. DfE spokesman: ‘The gap has closed only slightly in recent years and ministers are clear there’s much more to do to get a grip on the issue.’ (FT)
The FT is one of the few papers that doesn’t buy the Michael Gove line on schools, which is essentially that ‘most State schools are crap, standards are falling, ill discipline is rampant, poor kids are left behind and so we should all learn Latin, have house names and stripey blazers, and hand over the running of schools to journalists who agree with me.’
Just as their economic strategy depends on constant and exaggerated running down of Labour’s record, so the same goes for schools, and the FT today is a helpful reminder that considerable progress was made.
Harriet Harman said in her speech to Labour’s conference that it was time for all the apologising to stop. More than that, it is also time for Labour to stand up for the huge progress that was made across many aspects of our national life.
It is an act of strategy for the Tories, helped by the huge bias in the media in favour of their basic arguments, to rubbish Labour’s record. It has to be an equal act of strategy for Labour to push back. The FT is but the latest example of the ample evidence there is on which to base such a strategy.
This is not about defending a record for the sake of it. It is about ensuring, when policies for the future are set out at the next election, that Labour are able to say ‘we delivered in office before, and we can do so again.’