The government is being urged to stop using a ‘misleading’ statistic that indicates there are more pupils attending ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools in England than there were eight years ago.

David Laws is a former schools minister who says the government is making frequent use of a statistic that indicates there’s been a big rise in pupil numbers attending good or a standing outstanding schools.

Mr Laws is now chair of the think tank Education Policy Institute (EPI) and their research highlights that the government statistic has been mentioned more than 40 times.

Their research reveals that in media stories, schools minister Nick Gibb in 2016 highlighted the 1.8 million pupils attending good or outstanding schools than did so in 2010.

He used the same figure in March last year and in March this year a Department for Education spokesman said the figure was 1.9 million pupils.

Fair comparison for pupils in a highly rated school

The EPI says there are several factors which undermine the use of the statistic as a fair comparison for pupils in a highly rated school.

They say that more than 25% of this rise in pupil numbers attending outstanding or good schools is accounted for by the growth in pupil numbers and a shift in the schools they are attending.

The research authors say: “That’s not to say these should be written off from the total but the DfE would point out rightly that it intends to expand higher performing schools.”

Also, the researchers say 579,000 pupils are attending schools that are being rated as good or outstanding but these haven’t been inspected since 2010.

Of these, 309,000 pupils were at a school that converted to an academy and have never been inspected since doing so.

The report authors add: “If these academies had recently been inspected, they may have achieved the same outcome.”

Inspectors to award a school with a good grade

The report also suggests that the Ofsted grade of ‘satisfactory’ to ‘requires improvement’ was often seen as a punishment and this could have led some inspectors awarding a school with a good grade willingly.

Mr laws says: “Taking into account the rise in numbers of pupil, the number of schools not inspected for years and the impact of the new Ofsted grading, it’s impossible for the statistic to bear the weight ministers are wanting to place upon it.

“It would be best if they stopped using the statistic which misrepresents the improvement levels in schools and will risk generating complacency over education challenges the country is facing.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The facts are clear, most pupils are in outstanding or good schools and there are 1.9 million more than in 2010 which is a rise from 66% to 86%.”

The spokesman added that academic standards are continuing to rise and more pupils are reaching the expected standards in maths with 154,000 more six-year-old becoming fluent readers since the phonics check was brought in six years ago.