Failure, failure, failure: Blair's 10 wasted years on education
- From: "MCP" <gf010w5035@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 07:48:11 GMT
Tony Blair's famous pledge that his priority would be "education, education,
education" has been exposed as hollow by a withering report.
It shows that England's children have plummeted in the international league
tables of school achievement during his ten years in power.
They are now behind South Korea, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic in key
subjects and the gap between the private sector and state schools is more
pronounced than in any other country.
The findings brought accusations Mr Blair has presided over "a wasted decade"
for education and showed Labour's claims that standards have been continually
rising to be false.
The report, published by the independent think tank Sutton Trust, claims
England's performance in 12 independent international tests fails to bear out Mr
Blair's claims of rising exam standards.
Published results in national curriculum tests, GCSE and A-levels are unreliable
because the exam system is susceptible to political meddling, it argues.
Rising exam scores owe as much to "teaching to the test", manipulation of exam
entries and gradual grade inflation as they do real gains in pupil performance,
says the report.
In fact, England has tumbled down a world league of teenagers' performance
because schools are failing to keep pace with other countries, claims the report
by education expert Professor Alan Smithers.
After demolishing the value of official exam results, he declares: "Has
education in England got better under Tony Blair? The short answer is that it is
much harder to tell than it should be."
The main study to which he refers was carried by the Programme for International
Student Assessment (PISA) and involved testing thousands of 15-year-olds in
countries around the world in similar tests.
In only three years, England has fallen from ninth in one table of pupils'
achievement in maths to 19th - below Liechtenstein and Iceland. Fee-paying
schools cemented their advantage during Mr Blair's time in office with a 12 per
cent rise in pupil numbers while truancy in state schools has worsened to record
The report claims that Mr Blair's cherished education targets, on which he has
pinned his reputation, have driven schools to drill pupils to pass tests rather
than instilling real knowledge and providing a broad education.
The analysis is seen as a damning indictment of Mr Blair's decade in power as he
prepares to leave Downing Street. Determined to make good on his education
promise, he ratcheted up the budget from £29billion in 1997 to £60billion this
Ministers launched a furious counter-attack last night, insisting the testing
system was "vigorous" and that the watchdog Ofsted ensures standards of teaching
are maintained. However, in primary schools, research has already shown that
official results dramatically overstated gains in pupil performance,
particularly in English, prompting a rebuff to ministers from the
number-crunching watchdog, the Statistics Commission.
That study uncovered a "slackness in statistical procedures" which meant the
qualifying marks for national curriculum grades had been gradually relaxed.
In his report, Professor Smithers, of Buckingham University, adds: "It is open
to question whether pressure from the centre through targets and the associated
numeracy and literacy strategies under the Labour Government has added
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "School statistics have
become so politicised that it is time to consider an independent watchdog which
among other things would assess the educational performance of schools."
Tory schools spokesman Nick Gibb said: "This has been a wasted opportunity, a
wasted decade. Labour had a real chance and a lot of goodwill to tackle some of
the deep-seated causes of educational underperformance. But they have kow-towed
to the education establishment throughout these ten years."
Schools Minister Jim Knight said Professor Smithers - "a prominent critic of the
Government" - had pointed to improvements in some areas.
But he added: "Professor Smithers underestimates the genuine transformation that
there has been in our schools in the last ten years.
"There are now 95,000 more 11-yearolds achieving the target level for their age
in English and 83,000 more in mathematics compared with 1997."
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