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We're rank outsiders, Mr Gove

With reference to Michael Gove's Insight (17 December), he can't be allowed to get away with his statement that the schools white paper so "precisely addresses Pisa ... that it could be a bespoke response".

In fact, the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey contains some uneasy conclusions for Mr Gove. His arguments for further extending autonomy and choice sit uncomfortably with Pisa's view that countries where many schools compete for students "do not systematically produce better results".

At his recent Commons select committee hearing he said that he would take the decline in Swedish Pisa results head on. It was the lack of accountability, he said, not free schools that had led to the dip. That is not the view of Sweden's own assessment agency nor of the top-performing Finns, who explicitly blame free schools for the Swedish decline. And given the strong arguments from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) against "early tracking", or selection, how will he respond to the continuing existence of grammar schools?

Curiously missing from Mr Gove's article is any reference to another OECD study which thankfully his Government has now signed up to - the TALIS study focusing on teacher learning. It would have been far better for the white paper to have set out a coherent plan for funding teacher learning as an entitlement than making unproven claims about effects of structural reform on standards.

John Bangs

Senior research associate, Cambridge University; education international consultant, OECD.

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