On the naughty step - The pundits who need a ticking off

16th September 2011 at 01:00
This week: Norman Tebbit

Even at the age of 80, former Tory minister and Thatcherite enforcer Norman Tebbit cannot resist rattling cages. Asked recently on Radio 4's Today programme what had caused the summer's riots and looting, he blamed a decline in society.

"There's the collapse of education - for example, we're now producing far more illiterate and innumerate kids at the age of 16 leaving school virtually unemployable," he said.

Comparing education standards over time is notoriously tricky, as exams change. But where Lord Tebbit got the idea that "far more" pupils were illiterate and innumerate is a mystery.

Over the past 12 years you can look at key stage test data that shows clear improvements. And even the pessimistic overview given by the Cambridge Primary Review indicates improvements in both subjects - even if they have not been particularly big ones - since the 1950s.

As for the hyperbole about a "collapse in education" - those three words alone land the Chingford skinhead on the naughty step.

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