PM should ignore this OECD critic of academic selection

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The head of OECD Education, Andreas Schleicher, involved his organization in attacking the UK’s grammar schools by suggesting that they only benefit the rich but do not contribute to raising standards.

His assertions were not backed up with evidence. He has used the annual OECD report to pursue a long-standing aim, to attack academic selection at 11.

The OECD claims that academic selection at 11 poses risk to equity and argue that selection and choice has to be managed by using random lotteries rather than academic selection.

An irony of Schleicher’s attack is that he has been responsible for leading an organisation using questionable methods.

In 2013 The Times Educational Supplement published Dr Hugh Morrison’s claim that the rankings reported in OECD PISA tables were “utterly wrong.”

They also reported Professor Svend Kreiner’s discovery that a large proportion of the PISA rankings are based on random numbers. Kreiner,investigated the PISA tables and concluded: “The best we can say about PISA rankings is that they are useless.”

The British mathematician Dr Tony Gardiner has dismissed PISA output as “snake oil” and Professor Yong Zhao has characterised PISA rankings as being “as useful as student drinking games.”

Those who spread OECD claims to rank order school systems for usefulness are reluctant to enter into serious debate about the validity of those rankings. Kreiner makes a point upon which all the OECD’s critics are united: “… it is not up to the rest of the world to show the OECD are wrong. It is up to PISA to show they are right.”

The Prime Minister must dismiss Mr Schleicher’s assertions because they are based on questionable PISA test data. She should ignore his unsolicited advice and raise questions over the methods cited by this ‘expert’.

Michael Gove claimed: ‘The most important man in English education doesn’t teach a single English child, wasn’t elected by a single English voter and won’t spend more than a single week in England this year. But Andreas Schleicher deserves the thanks of everyone in England who wants to see our children fulfil the limit of their potential.’

Michael Gove’s support for Mr Schleicher will surprise those who thought he was a traditionalist.

Mr Gove, as well as Mr Schleicher, would benefit from re-reading Theresa May’s equality strategy speech of November 17, 2010.

Her message was clear; no government should try to ensure equal outcomes for everyone.

Least of all an unaccountable European quango when Brexit means Brexit.

Stephen Elliott, Chair, The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education