A Rising Tide: Part 3

 A Rising Tide, along with Cameron’s synchronised announcement, made the headlines across the UK. To understand the power and importance of the PX report, it is vital to understand its origins.”… just six weeks after the Education Committee made this declaration, PX published their conclusions about just that. The headline findings – which found their way straight into the headlines on the 9th March 2015 – of A Rising Tide spoke specifically of the “competitive benefits” of the free schools model. It was argued that the rising tide of competition is driving up standards in non-free schools, and as such, their recommendations held that everything should be done to encourage their expansion: free schools should be authorised in areas of educational need (where standards are low), and not just of basic need (where school places are needed); expansion grants should be provided to encourage existing providers to open more schools; and companies providing support for groups who want to establish free schools (specifically one called the New Schools Network) should be expanded.These findings are based on the report’s analysis which looked at schools which were geographically close-to, and demographically “similar” to, all of the free schools opened since 2010. They then looked at the “headline results measures” of these schools (national exams taken at ages 11 and 16), and compared them both before and after the free school had opened close to them. From this came the conclusion (presented in bold font in the report’s “Executive Summary”) that “Free Schools are helping to raise standards not just for the pupils who attend them but for other pupils across the local community – especially those in lower performing schools”.(11) While they did attest briefly that correlation does not equal causation, and recognised that in some schools (in particular high performing primaries) they in fact found evidence of a negative correlation, this information was not recognised by the plethora of newspapers and media outlets that reported the findings.Free schools are a contentious issue, and immediately following the report – while the Conservative Party worked hard to promote the results – an array of criticisms sprung up. Political criticism was to be expected. There was significant pushback from the Labour Party (who have since promised in their manifesto to eliminate the “flawed” free school policy if they win the election(12) with the Shadow Education Minister, Tristram Hunt, attacking Cameron’s determination to “carry on regardless” with what he described as a policy that was “expensive, wasteful and failing young people”.(13) Meanwhile the UK’s largest teacher’s union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), issued a press release saying that it did not accept the conclusions, directly attacking the data on which they were based.

Read Previous

To Think or Not To Think (Tank)?

Read Next

Free Thinking? Part 6

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *