John Hartevelet, hero of the people #nationalstandards

So, after Anne Tolley in 2009 saying the government would make it really hard for schools’ National Standards data to be published in the form of league tables, today Stuff launched an entire new section of their site to … basically publish league tables.

(Oh no, John Hartevelt laments, they haven’t compiled league tables!  They’ve just published all the raw data online so anyone with a modicum of Excel knowledge can easily sort the schools by their performance.  It’s like publishing a list people’s salaries sorted alphabetically by surname then saying “Oh, we totally haven’t published a rich list, it’s not in order of salary!”)

And we have John Hartevelt to thank, people.  He is our hero.  Tirelessly combatting the bureaucracy and self-serving interests of those scum who dare call themselves “teachers”, he’s just reporting the facts and letting us decide.  Take it away, John:

Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.
They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school’s data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.

Many more gave up their school’s National Standards data with a grave note of caution about the reliability and usefulness of it. We have not been deterred by the criticisms and the cautions,

But some people aren’t so certain that National Standards data is, well, any use at all to anyone for anything:

Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. …For starters, they are not moderated, so one school’s “well below” may be another’s “at” or “above”. There is just no way of knowing – yet – exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.

But even if they were moderated, the standards alone could not tell you everything about how a school is doing by its pupils. As many of the experts we canvassed for this project have noted, quality is most evident in what a school does to push its pupils up, not in how well they do at attracting the brainiest, most-privileged kids in the first place.

So why publish National Standards data at all?

Wait, no, that was also John Hartevelt, in the very next paragraph.  Why indeed, John?

Well, let him tell us, people, it is not a business decision and they are not doing it to drum up pageviews, and mumble mumble something about Letting The People Decide.

Let the people decide what, John?  You’ve acknowledged that the data is inconsistent across different schools.  You’ve acknowledged that the data has no correlation to actual school quality, and cannot be used to draw meaningful conclusions about, well, anything.

What debate are we meant to have with rubbish data as its foundation?

It’s like they’ve launched a new Science And Evolution section based entirely on spreadsheets of the Biblical genealogy of King David.  “Look, we know that this is only one source which doesn’t accurately reflect any kind of scientific consensus,” John would trumpet, “but we have a duty to the people, and we trust them to weigh up the non-existent facts and baseless statements.”

Does John Hartevelt understand why journalists exist?  There’s a reason that the mainstream media is still holding on despite the rise of parasite bloggers like myself – because people do assume that journalists have done the background work, they do assume there’s some kind of accountability and adherence to basic facts, and you know what, John, they kind of think you get paid to sort through the bullshit for them.

If we all had the time and expertise to play around with statistical data you wouldn’t have a job, John.

So please, let’s stop kidding each other.  This is all about drumming up baseless stories to run down our teachers and keep pretending that poverty doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter, that the gap between rich and poor is just about not being able to pre-order an iPhone 5, that Reading, Writing And Rithmetic is all you need to know because that’s what gets you a job.

And as a bonus, John Hartevelt gets to sell himself as our hero.  Isn’t that nice?

One comment

  1. peterlepaysan

    It was always about Hartevelt filling up space between the advertisements.

    Those who fill up space between advertisements are retained on staff.

    To hell with facts. Only real reporters deal with facts.