Lies, damned lies and Tory think-tank statistics
The right-wing think tank CPS (http://www.cps.org.uk/) is heralding polling it has done as proof of public support for a return to selective secondary education.
I thought I'd actually skim through their report, which is online here: http://www.cps.org.uk/latestpublications/
Approx 2 minutes of reading found two examples of deliberate misuse of statistics:
a) The public support figure is a straightforward misrepresentation of the polling results. The CPS says it "suggests that most people are in favour of some form of selection" - actually the detailed figures in the report say only 36% support selective schools, 20% support mixed ability classes and 40% "favour streamed by ability in mixed-ability schools" - i.e there is 60% public support for some form of comprehensive education.
b) The report makes a completely absurd case that selective education produces better results across the board - but does this in 2 ways - 1) by comparing A-level results at grammar schools (where all pupils are selected for their ability to pass exams) with a lumped together figure for both comprehensives and the secondary modern schools that in residual selective areas get all the pupils not good at passing exams and 2) by comparing GCSE results in areas that are wholly selective with those that are wholly comprehensive - which is confusing pattern with causality - the reason why GCSE results are better in wholly selective areas than wholly comprehensive is that the hold-outs against comprehensive education were mainly Tory LEAs in more prosperous areas like Buckinghamshire or Kent whilst those that went furthest towards comprehensive schooling were mainly inner-city poorer areas. GCSE results in Buckinghamshire are good because the kids there mainly come from well-off homes where they get a lot of a head start in life - not because of the school structure there. And what are the results at secondary modern schools in LEAs that have kept selection?
The reason why there is 60% support for comprehensives is that parents are not stupid - they know that for every 1 kid that got a grammar school place under the old 11+, another 9 had a second-class education at a secondary modern. You don't have to have the CPS' ability to massage numbers to work out that makes the odds of your kids getting a good education very low.