Yesterday an article in the Guardian stated that “Gove’s free schools will divide pupils by social class, warn headteachers”. But is this really the case?

Now I may not be big fan of the free schools programme and certainly not the rhetoric used.  However, much of the statistics used in the article show exactly why headlines are misleading and more importantly how a statistic can be turned into the biggest and fattest lie.

First of all, there are several concerns over this policy which are of merit and concerning regarding this education policy. For instance, the idea of putting another successful school right next to an existing successful school in a middle class area and fighting for a similar pot of money appears lunacy.  On top of this there is a creeping selection agenda built within the free school policy which is underhand and a free hand is being given to those groups in society who wish to encourage ghettoisation and divisions in society, namely religious schools in the main.

However, putting this aside, the main thrust of the argument in this particular article is that statistics are allegedly showing that the education reforms will divide society and that free schools are disproportionately being set up in middle class areas. So is this true?

The statistics given are as follows:

Of the 32 Free Schools due to open –
13 are in the most affluent half of England
Only 2 are in the 10% most deprived areas
10 are in the 20% most deprived areas
Less than a fifth are opening in the North of England
Half are opening in the South and South East

So lets take these one by one.

32 free schools 13 in the the top half of affluent areas – which means that 19 must be in the bottom half – to put it another way, that makes  59.3% of free schools being set up in the 50% of the least affluent areas. Surely showing the opposite of what the article is trying to portray.

Then we have the statement that the fact that most of the schools are being set up in the “south” and “south east” of England somehow makes this a middle class free for all and “regionalist.”

Of course what the article doesn’t mention is by far the most expanding area of population tends to be in the south east and the most populous area of the country is in the same area.  Not only this but London also has many deprives areas.  I am not even going to bother going into the ridiculous nature of the labels of “south” and “south east” which is such an enormous area really makes comparisons meaningless.

This article shows how statistics can be twisted simply for pithy political sloganism and lazy journalism.  hardly worth a double page spread.

My advice to the journalist Daniel Boffey, apparently policy editor is, if you are going to make an argument, do it with FACTS and report them honestly and make a good argument.  This piece does none of these things.



3 responses to “MICHAEL GOVE TO DIVIDE PUPILS BY SOCIAL CLASS: Is this really the case?

  1. In terms of the North/South divide if what they refer to is the combination of the South East, South West and Greater London regions then the population for this area is roughly 42% of England. As such one would expect about half the schools to be opening there.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think the article in the observer was badly done with the terms being so vague. What exactly is “the north” of England and the “South” of England? Nothing meaningful can be extrapolated from these terms. With only 32 free schools in the immediate pipeline the jury surely is still out. A much better critique could have been made of the Free Schools project.

      • This is the problem when ideology takes the driving seat in news stories – the ‘facts’ seen are the ones that already match up with the policies held.

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