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Today’s FT shows more progress in schools under Labour – who need to fight back harder against Tory rubbishing of record

Posted on 1 October 2011 | 10:10am

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.’

  • Quinney

    The primary school where all my kids went to.
    Pre 1997 we didn’t even have a BBC Acorn.

    Post 1997
    Computer suite where all the class has one PC each, connected to whiteboard and super broadband.
    All classes have whiteboards connected to internet.
    Two extensions
    New efficient gas boiler
    New fencing
    Playground resurfaced
    Classroom assistants enabling the teacher to concentrate on teaching.

    But most of all the funding per pupil nearly trebled.
    Pity we couldn’t qualify as a charity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

  • Olli Issakainen

    I just listened to Any Questions? with Alan Duncan on the panel.
    He once again mentioned the all too familiar line that the Tory-led government is cleaning up the “mess” left by Labour.
    But when Labour left the office growth was 2.5%, deficit £10bn below the forecast and borrowing £20bn below the forecast.
    Now Britain seems to be back in recession thanks to Mr Osborne´s austerity. He must now borrow £46bn more than the forecast, and he is £12bn behind the schedule in deficit reduction.
    People who claim that Labour overspent please prove this by using official ONS and Treasury figures. Display the exact mechanism by which Labour caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the US by building schools and hospitals.
    Britain´s debt before the global financial crisis caused by banks was only 36.5% of GDP.
    National debt becomes a problem only at 80-100% of GDP. The Maastricht Treaty debt reference level is 60% of GDP.
    So people who claim that Labour overspent do not know anyhing about economics.
    Both debt and deficit were lower before the crash than under John Major.
    Nobel-winning economist has said that Osborne exaggerated the economic situation in 2010 by comparing Britain to Greece.
    At the time of 2010 general election Britain´s debt was still only 53.5%, under the Maastricht Treaty level.
    And Mr Osborne´s claim that Britain was “near bankrupt” leaves economists speechless.
    For political reasons Osborne started cutting too early, and has now killed the recovery. Now he cannot cut taxes before the next election as was his plan.
    Now that there is a crisis in eurozone, Mr Osborne has found out that there is such a thing as “world economy”.
    When he was in opposition, everything was Labour´s fault.
    This only proves that leading Tories like David Cameron and Osborne have no ethics. They say whatever it takes to push their bankrupt idea of austerity.
    Why is there austerity in the world?
    One reason is neoliberal ideology. The other is that investors have bought treasury bonds, 30-year bonds and dollars. Now they want to keep their money safe and demand austerity from governments.
    Top Tory Andrew Tyrie has stated the obvious: Osborne has no plan for growth.
    FTSE has had the worst quarter since 2002.
    Goldman Sachs warns of Great Stagnation meaning low growth and rising unemployment.
    All this is caused by neoliberal austerity which Labour has now rejected.
    David Cameron´s strategy is export-led recovery while he demands austerity from other countries in Europe. Sounds a bit illogical to me…
    It is only cuts, cuts and more cuts from the Tories. This is “modern compassionate Conservatism”.
    Mr Osborne must now explain how the private sector is going to create the promised 2.5m new jobs, and from where the growth is coming.
    Unless he can do it now, he has zero credibility.
    It is the same old Tories again!

  • MicheleB

    This is an oldish article for the bookmarks :

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7733794.stm

    Its writer is part of the team behind ‘More or Less’ which is presently in recess so I can’t get myself in knots listening to it each week 🙂

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014641t#related-links

  • Ehtch

    tories rubbish everything. That is what they are like in their make-up, rubbish fecking everything in life, the gormless twats that they are.

  • Forgive me if I take things out of context (as I have previously explained my financial understanding is flawed), but:
    For political reasons Osborne started cutting too early, and has now killed the recovery. Now he cannot cut taxes before the next election as was his plan.
    Now that there is a crisis in eurozone, Mr Osborne has found out that there is such a thing as “world economy”.
    When he was in opposition, everything was Labour´s fault.
    This only proves that leading Tories like David Cameron and Osborne have no ethics. ”

    This, for me, sums up the whole Cameron-Osborne vice-like grip on this country. To say they don’t care is to state the blindingly obvious. The current financial ‘policy’ is laughable if you aren’t affected directly, and criminal if you are in line of the cuts.

    I shudder, I really do. To see what Labour achieved taken to the brink like this…how shameful…how do CamOsb sleep at night (by looking at their own bank accounts as a bedtime story?)

  • Ehtch

    Shirley, don’t worry. The Tories always carry on like this – they seem masochostic in their makeup. They are sad sad people.

  • Tony L

    Labour simply has to fight back and start correcting all the lies the Tories are telling. Stop sitting back and letting them peddle their lies about overspending, the deficit, etc. And it needs to start from the top – we have much to be proud of – let’s start putting the record straight before it’s too late.

  • Janiete

    Excellent link Michelle. Shows the extent of deception practised before and since the election. While it is understandable that the general public is easily fooled, there is no excuse for journalists to accept deceitful assertions without challenging them. Unless of course journalists are part of the problem, in cahoots with the deceivers!  

  • Janiete

    Well said Olli. This sums up our situation and the Condem deceit perfectly.

    As for his solution: ‘David Cameron´s strategy is export-led recovery while he demands austerity from other countries in Europe. Sounds a bit illogical to me…’

    I’d also describe it as inept and downright hypocritical. 

  • Cromp-phil

     Don’t just blame the press and the Tories. I see little or no resistance from the Labour Party or from Headteachers. The bland acceptance of Gove’s views is embarrassing. I’m a Head myself- and have been for 11 years. I  am ashamed of the capitulation.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Current education policy is absolutely horrific.

    Stop trying to politicise things by claiming all Labour policy was wonderful and start constructively criticising this government’s policy instead.

    Unfortunately that’s rather hard to do while you’re looking at the predecessor policies with an uncritical lens.

     ‘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.’

    Nothing to do with more money being spent then?

  • Patricia Shepherd

    I look forward to reading your posts as much as reading Al’s blog,and none more so than today.
        I have been getting so het up because no one is standing up and shouting the truth for labour.  We had a great record,one to be proud of,and this shower is just getting richer and richer while everyone else is struggling to live.
         I depend on the state pension to live,but my son works his socks off at Asda,since he went deaf he can’t get a look in for his proper work as a tool setter,he works all the hours god sends and picks up 5oo pounds a month.
       Another son is on the dole after his company went under,one of my daughters does 2 jobs to keep afloat.
       We need someone to stand up for us all fast!!  I  didn’t see any one try at the conference last week.

  • Libdem

    Sorry to point out the obvious but don’t you think that TB and GB exercised a ‘vice-like’ grip over the country during their time in office? I think you’ll also find that so far, they’ve done more spending than cutting as Olli points out.
    Labour achieved a lot that is true but they also left a hangover of profligacy and inefficiency witness 12bn on just one failed IT project and there were many of them.
    I shudder when I think of TB’s fine efforts in giving our money back to the EU for absolutely nothing and entering into so many unjustifiable wars.
    GB…well, he just makes me shudder full stop.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Are you on linkedin.com Cromp-phil?
    If so please join the groups UK education any other groups in education which interest you.  You can message me by selecting one of my posts in a conversation and we can link so you can see all the groups I’m members of. 

    One problem is that this policy is so fantastical, extreme and in contravention of all the theory of the economics of education that people hardly know where to begin to criticise it.  The linkedin groups are a good place to start.

  • sarah dodds

    It is because of Labour’s record in “education, education, education” that I joined the party, and that I am now proud (most of the time) to be a Labour councillor.
    The speed in which  this Government are now shaping our futures by re-writing the past is quite phenomenal. On no issue is this more apparent then in education. All of my training and the first part of my career was under the Tory government. They may wish to try, but they cannot erase my memories of that painful reality!
    What I do remember when Labour came in was a sense of real government engagement in education. My school trialed the Numeracy hour before it was unleashed on the general population, and I remember thinking at the time how refreshing it was to be trying a policy out before it was rushed out. I know that Labour had far too much emphasis on measured outcomes, but the direction was generally good.
    What staggers me today  is how little the government are engaging in education in a real, gritty day to day sense. There is no listening, no understanding of what real needs there are. Where are the trilas to find out how a region works with no LA? What we are seeing is policy of the very, very worst kind. It is dogmatic and structural in emphasis – the Academies Bill last year made no mention of teaching and learning at all. It is also leading to a string of fear based and reactive decision making that quite frankly scares me, what I refer to in my Lincolnshire campaign is schools having to make “least worst” options. Least worst will never be best.
    I joined Labour because of their record in education. My political affiliation is based on what I have experienced and seen as a professional, not the other way around. And now my anger towards them stems from their failure to fight the education corner in any meaningful way. If we do not engage in a meaningful way soon with the whole academy / local authority debate (and it is a genuine debate!), the opportunity to protect much of what Labour created that was good will be lost.

  • MicheleB

    Feel free to shudder in private, you know it makes sense.

    BTW I hope I didn’t just accidentally scroll over ‘Like’ and give you a flutter?  It’s a bad habit I thought I was over.

  • Craig w Thomas

    True, true, true! More, more, more, Alistair.

  • Tim

    You just need top look at Helena Dollimores plight – an A grade sixth form  student from Heathfield in Sussex who’s had here course cancelled half way through because of Government education cuts. It exposes the Tories strategy on education (as in everything else) as geared towards the moneyed elite.

  • MicheleB

    Ooooo..er, I think we’d all better write our posts with a tick list alongside so we can be sure of mentioning every damn thing in every damn post, rather than crediting readers with their own nouse and capability of thinking holistically.

    Could nobody be expected to realise that
    “…………..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…….”

    equates with
    “……………………..more money being spent …………………..”

    if it wasn’t pointed out to them and mebbe necessarily IN CAPITALS ‘cos they is all fick innit?

  • MicheleB

    Indeed Janiete, I especially like the charts comparing graphics that don’t start at £0, thereby distorting all the percentages / proportions.

    .

  • Chris lancashire

    One tiny little fact you omit of which I am sure you are aware is that the FT’s Education Correspondent, Christopher Cook is an ex-Tory adviser to Willetts and appears to have something of a personal axe to grind when it comes to Michael Gove. I think we can safely discount most of what Mr Cook has written and I note that not other national daily has picked any of this up.

  • MicheleB

    I don’t think slanging matches involving lots of detail can do much good, especially when so many people are not confident of their maths, never mind economics at even basic levels.

    I must admit though that I am well and truly fed up of the apparent  acceptance by Labour MPs that this Govt will run its course as decreed for itself.

    It’s seeming as if MPs are resigned to us all having to wait for another ‘things can only get better moment’ and I don’t appreciate the non-proactiveness of that.

    Perhaps allowing this Govt to do all the unpopular things is quite handy.

  • MicheleB

    Perhaps some journos are just not too good at the figures themselves Janiete!

    The incredibly clear and accessible presenter of ‘More or Less’ was unknown to me till a few months ago, he’s the ‘undercover economist’ of the FT …. thank heavens he’s reaching a wider audience (although the scheduling of the programme isn’t exactly peak time)!

  • Nick

    I do have one question about this. There is an upper limit to how well children can do in their GCSEs: they can’t get more than an A*. So if group A starts off at a higher level than group B, it has less opportunity to progress than group B, as there aren’t as many grades left above their original performance.  How did the FT take account of that issue before noting that the lower-starting group had improved more?

  • Gilliebc

    Lol !

  • LOL

    Seems that way when you’re put through 7 inspections a year with horrific consequences under Labour and then you’re slammed to a seriously botched ‘academyisation’ and the Conservative’s response is to step up those policies Michele and Gillie.

    FICK!  FICK!  FICK! 🙂   (what is it i before e….)