Day 68 – Logical Fallacies

SMS hears that the adjournment debate called by Nadine Dorries went well last night – once it is out in Hansard, we’ll put a link up to it here. It should be on iPlayer on BBC Parliament too…

Hansard
The adjournment debate on Monday 6 July led by Nadine Dorries.

———————————————————————————————————-

Probably the biggest issue with the argument for change to two-tier is the illogicality of its main premise.

Educational standards are poorer in Bedford Borough than in other similar parts of the country therefore a move to two-tier will produce a step-change in results.

Whether you agree or disagree with the first statement (we disagree obviously) there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that changing school system will do anything other than result in chaos.

No authority has ever made a wholesale change of school system without there being an education mess created for a generation of children, schools and families.

Northampton changed to two-tier in 2005 and is now the worst performing education authority in the country with more schools on special measures and on notices to improve. It is recovering, but very very slowly.

In authorities that have had two- and three- tier existing side-by-side, nobody has produced any credible evidence that the three-tier parts are any better or worse than the two-tier parts.

Schools differ; they all have unique problems; let’s target our resources on the parts of the system that need immediate improvement and not waste public money on fantasies.

We need you to tell other people about our campaign, to encourage them to TAKE ACTION – now, today, don’t delay.

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18 Responses to Day 68 – Logical Fallacies

  1. William says:

    Having also seen the debate (Boy we know how to have a good time!) three things were clear:

    – The minister had no issue with the consultation document

    – BSF funding doesn’t depend on what school system you have (although he did seem to say that Bedford Borough Council we quite behind in putting any kind of bid in for any of the two funding streams!)

    – Local people should be the ones to make a decision, not local councillors, not the mayor, not the CEO and of course not SMS……. I personally like Nadine Dorries suggestion of having a public vote on the matter – something tells me this will be the only way to stop any problems once a decision is made one way or the other!

    • savemiddleschools says:

      I don’t remember SMS asking to make the decision…I do remember SMS saying that we would like a full public debate, with both sides of the argument represented fully and accurately, without undue pressure from vested interests to influence respondents, and with our elected representatives making the decision based on their constituents’ views…

      That, surely, is democratic.

      A public referendum would of course be acceptable to SMS, but we fear we do not have enough time for this to be organised AND to put together a three-tier bid for BSF funding…

      We welcome debate…unlike the arch proponents of the two-tier side, who want us to trust them while they overtly and covertly manipulate opinion…shame on them…

      • William says:

        When I say SMS i mean the threat of a judicial review.

        Sadly I am not sure that a referendum would be acceptable with SMS if it went 2 tier…

      • Leodis says:

        Have we entered a parallel universe where William only reads what he wishes to? If you go to day 1 of the blog or somewhere pretty close you will find a clear statement from SMS (and I’m not a member) – with the word referendum in it. If it was the will of the people then it would be accepted but we all know what would happen if the public REALLY got a say! Oh and anyone – individual or group can institute judicial review so don’t think someone won’t question processes and procedures!

  2. JamesD says:

    What the Minister did not say was that the £340million of BSF funding was guaranteed to Bedford beyond 2010! So enter on restructuring at our, or rather the children’s, peril.

    • William says:

      I think what he said was “no comment”….

      • Leodis says:

        I’ve read Hansard. He didn’t say no comment. It was more erm, erm, I can’t possibly commit and it would be unreasonable for me to do so. That is not ‘no comment.’

  3. Fred Bagnall says:

    Firstly, as some confusion has arisen with my previous posts, a clarification of my status. I am not an education professional and do not work in a school, college, university or local government. I am not a local politician of any sort. I am not a school governor. Nor am I a SMS stooge. I am a reasonably numerate and literate parent trying to make an informed response to the consultation document. I have adopted a nom de plume in line with guidance given from our Lower schools upwards with regard to web use.

    Long ago, or so it seems, I attended an SMS presentation and I attended the consultation presentation at Biddenham. I have been a reader of this blog and read the information on the Borough website, including more recent additions such as July 1st FAQs.

    I see SMS as a group with access to PR/media/lobby skills that they are not afraid to use and with no responsibility longer term if some of their output is somewhat subjective at best. Their continued rubbishing of the Borough statistics, especially when they refused the invitation to meet and explore their origins, makes me cross. I have come to accept there is an underperforming issue and do not understand that they cannot and do not seem to present anything to support their dismissal of the Borough stats. The Borough has now presented some GCSE stats on authorities that have moved from 3-tier to 2-tier, better late than never.

    I have previously presented information that I found suggesting children in Bedfordshire are less likely to feel very safe at school (50% v 55%) and less likely to never have been bullied (51% v 56%) than the national average and provided the source of that data. Also that 26% in Bedfordshire v 33% nationally always try their best at school and 15% in Bedfordshire v 23% nationally always learn a lot at school. This based on samples of years 6, 8 and 10 and not an endorsement of our schools, middle schools in particular. The national middle school statistics from NMSF show more of our middle schools as OFSTED rated grade 3 or 4 than national middle schools for overall effectiveness, standards and achievements and several of the other measures. Alban, Goldington and Lincroft show well but that does not make the Borough middle schools as a whole indispensable as selective adverts in the local press might have you believe. I cannot accept the inference that our middle schools represent some sort of panacea.

    Lower school heads have now appeared in the local press in support of change and ready to take responsibility for all of KS2. Upper school heads support the change. They may be dispirited if the plans do not proceed outnumbering the middle school staff that may be dispirited if the plans do proceed. Uncertainty, especially prolonged uncertainty prompted by a judicial review, would help nobody. I would like responsibility to be clear for the Key Stages, which is not the case at the moment with our non-conformist school structure. If the problem is the Upper schools, as Secondary schools they cannot so readily blame the preceding schools.

    Many local politicians are school governors and as such should have known about the proposed changes for some considerable time. They chose not to make an issue of it at the recent elections, preferring to focus on litter, potholes etc. Whether the views expressed by the local MPs are matched by those of the local politicians of their respective parties is difficult to know when you hear nothing from them. Of course the MPs are attuned to local issues as a general election approaches.

    In light of the SMS campaign more respondents against the change can be expected than for the change. This may not mean that this is the view of the population as a whole; it may be a reflection of the time and energy put into the anti lobby by SMS.

    Not all the SMS concerns are groundless. I have not seen the funding and practicalities of converting Lower schools into Primary schools properly addressed. There is the possibility that the ambition to transform may be beyond the collective capabilities of our education professionals, but maybe I would rather support the objective of improving than scaremonger for all but the status quo. The consultation is weak in detail and supporting arguments but that may not mean that insufficient exists in what is later presented to convince the Mayor/Executive/Full Council. The shame is we start from rather a low point with the consultation document and that SMS seems not to have produced a counter document which collates their arguments against together with properly referenced data and research papers. I would like to see the document on which the final decision will be made prior to the event but I am only a parent.

    I have doubts like those well expressed by some of the other posters here but there is something I find irritating about the SMS lobby. Quite possibly it is that I don’t like being lobbied but would rather be given proper information to digest. In the absence of that I think I have to end up trusting whomsoever it ends up to be among the local politicians to consider the fuller information they receive or to refuse change if adequate information cannot be provided. Trust a politician, what an odd thought…

    Trust Lower and Upper school heads and governors, maybe easier but not flawless. Oh dear! Still maybes from me and less than two weeks to give an answer.

    Frederica B.

    • KDev says:

      Mr Bagnall,
      I am not a member of SMS but I do approve of their effort to stop a change of school structure. What more long term responsibility can they not have to their children and in some cases their grandchildren.
      Look at the Council published GCSE stats and the time since each LA switched to 2-Tier, how many children lost their full chances in life during those changes of structure? The devil is always in the detail. The stats selected by the Council always seem to be selected to support the case for 2-Tier. The worst example is the direction of the public by the Council web site to the Suffolk review, which has been severely criticised and its findings reversed by published, peer reviewed academic research. (for example Suffolk School Organisational Review, Galton, 2006. (Proffessor M Galton, Cambridge University) and Symonds also of Cambridge University)
      If the proposal was to change from 2-Tier to 3-Tier I would still oppose it on the same grounds that it is the damage done in the change over period that hurts the education of so many pupils. In this case it is compounded by the lack of sensible costs for the Lower to Primary change and the huge risk that the indicative BSF funds will not be available post 2010. To start this change and not have sufficient funding would be an education and financial disaster for Bedford Borough.
      Too much risk, too much spin and no thorough planning sum up everything I have researched about the Council proposal. Fix what we have with all the funds that we can muster is the way ahead, start by increasing the education revenue budget to the England average and then see our schools, teachers and children achieve!

  4. savemiddleschools says:

    Fred,

    We value all comments by everyone regardless of their status.

    Thank you for participating in our debate.

    SMS

    • Fred Bagnall says:

      Thank you for your hospitality. Restore my faith further and answer a couple of questions:
      1. (easy) Are there problems with some Bedford Borough middle schools?
      2. (more difficult) What are the flaws with the Borough officer’s use of Milton Keynes, Bradford, Merton, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire as 3 to 2-tier examples and what could a different selection of statistics show for these? (Our esteemed councillors may find these figures persuasive as presented in the FAQs)

      • A Governor says:

        Certainly for Milton Keynes, the situation was markedly different.

        The Local Authority took the decision in that case not to close any school and instead implemented what they described as 2-tier, but is infact just a different 3-tier arrangement. All uppers became secondaries, all middles became juniors and all lowers became infants. So a much more straight forward transition because no schools had to be closed and staff were retained. As every school had a secured future staff retention during the transition was not really a problem.

        The interesting aspect of the Milton Keynes experience is that they now find they have unviable infant and unviable junior schools in their more rural areas.

        So overall, although the actual transition went well, the long-term result of the solution they adopted is far from ideal and, no doubt, the commitment to not close any school will have to be revisited in the not too distant future.

        It is also arguable whether they have really ended up with a 2-tier system but rather a different 3-tier system, one that is aligned to national Key Stages.

      • KDev says:

        Mr Bagnall,
        1)OfSTED grades all Bed Boro Middle Schools as Satisfactory or better. Is satisfactory good enough – no we need all of our schools to improve.
        2) Start from the point that in 2008 Bedfordshire was among the fastest improving LA in England. MK one of our Statistical Neighbours has worse results than Bed Boro,but see above. Bradford has improved after 5 years but what happened in the years following and during the change, the Council provided stats do not give the detail. Same comment for Merton, but that was 8 years since he change.Bucks still has worse results after 8 years. Worcs, similar to Merton and Bradford but seem to be getting worse again.
        Just how many children have suffered reduced life chances in these 5 examples?

  5. jonathan parsons says:

    having had the time and sence to read, see and listen to both aguments, and i am sorry to say it is better to stay with what we have and make it a model for outhers to follow, for what we have in bedford is a world class eduation system, i have to add on small comment the chidren will suffer, and to me my children will have there education blown away if we change, for that the school ie upper and lowers see now only how much money are they to get, no longer every child matters, but every head can get a bigger wage, i just hope that sence will prevail and our mayor is prepared to take the Consequences of his and the chief exec of brough hall as the buck stops with them, and i can hold them to answer long after this has finshed,

  6. William says:

    Taken from they mayors blog

    http://www.frankbranston.co.uk/wordpress/

    Blog titled Nadine’s referendum nonsense

    “More interesting, Nad claimed that I had not attended any of the consultations nor engaged with any parents. Not entirely true. I attended, and answered questions from the public at a well-attended scrutiny meeting and have corresponded with many parents and teachers, mainly three-tier supporters

    I didn’t attend consultations because I had hoped (mistakenly) to avoid them being turned into a recriminatory bear garden which I suspect some people intended to do if I was there.

    I do intend that before the council debates the issue I will chair a public debate with speakers from both sides discussing the issues rationally before taking questions and comments from the floor”

    Can our faith be restored?

    • Leodis says:

      Can our faith be restored? NO! The Mayor, if he does indeed do this, will have done so because of the pressure of campaigns such as this, not because he wants to.

      After all if he had wanted rounded debate he would have had both sides at all 6 public consultations, attended the meetings (perhaps even chaired them himself) and been prepared to comment.

      • William says:

        But isn’t this what everyone wants – he cant win! I think he has explained why he hasn’t attended and I think it is a fair point.

        Maybe we should wait and see what happens – and no before anyone starts I am not the mayors biggest fan!

  7. Leodis says:

    At least we have something in common – neither of us are the Mayor’s biggest fan!

    Of course I welcome the opportunity to debate both sides. What I object in the strongest terms to is the laissez faire attitude he has had up to this point. This means trust in the entire process – even if this debate goes ahead – has been damaged. At the start of this process it looked likely that he was going to make the decision using mayoral powers alone – to not dispel that from the start (which to my mind he could have done had he chosen to straight away. The legal advice is more likely to have surrounded whether a judicial review was more or less likely under a mayoral vote not if it needed special edict to go to full council) meant that his presence at the 6 consultation meetings was essential.

    It is disingenuous now to suggest that he is taking the moral high ground on debating when he allowed 6 meetings to go by with no attendance despite the question being asked at every one! TRUST has broken down in this situation. Is it more likely Mr Mayor is not sufficiently briefed on these matters to be let out in public, for fear he might say something his officers wouldn’t want him to?

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