Wednesday 22 August 2007

Lies, damned lies.....

News that some hapless researcher at Conservative Central Office has made a spectacular hash of David Cameron's relaunch revived memories of how careful we had to be conducting similar exercises in Opposition. In 1993, I was David Blunkett's researcher when he was Shadow Health Secretary, and we did plenty of such surveys, but we always tried to ensure we double checked our facts with the Trusts concerned rather than the local 'Save our Hospital' campaign, whose suspicions rarely amounted to the whole story.

One might be more sympathetic to the Tories' plight if they hadn't started becoming fast and loose with education statistics too. Today they claim that the proportion of students who get five good GCSEs in core subjects us 'in long-term decline'. The only way they achieve this ludicrous claim is by including a foreign language in the equation. If you take English, Maths and Science, and any combination of those subjects, the proportion with good grades has risen significantly since 1997 - for example 29% more pupils get five good GCSEs including English and Maths as did so when the Tories left office - as have the total numbers gaining five good GCSEs. One can argue about the merits or otherwise of French or German, but the failure of many who get otherwise good GCSEs to get a C grade in one of those subjects reflects the declining popularity of those languages in a country which speaks an increasingly universal language, not a decline in core subjects generally.

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