Janet Downs writes to the UK Statistics Authority on the attainment gap in primary and secondary schools.


In a letter dated 19 October 2018, The education secretary Damian Hinds told his shadow Angela Rayner, ‘The attainment gap between the most disadvantaged children and their peers, measured by the attainment gap index, narrowed by 10% in both primary and secondary school compared to 2011.’

This is misleading. The way outcomes has been measured has changed between 2011 and 2018 for both primary (changes in Key Stage 2 SATs) and secondary (Progress 8, Attainment 8 and reformed GCSEs). It is, therefore, not possible to compare outcomes after the changes came into effect with now-defunct ways of measuring outcomes prior to the changes.

Even if it is still possible to assess the so-called achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils (as measured by Pupil Premium eligibility) and advantaged pupils, the education blog by Nottingham Institute of Education concludes the claim that the achievement gap has narrowed by 10% since 2011 is a ‘numerical sleight of hand’.

I should be grateful if you could investigate the Department for Education’s claim.

Janet Downs

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