The Department for Education and Skills has replied to our "anonymous human FOIA proxy") request about the OECD PISA study, made at the suggestion of someone posting a suggestion to this website.
This concerns the OECD PISA study of the educational standards achieved by 15 year olds in 51 countries around the world. Astonishingly, the DfES, through its contractor the Office for national Statistics, somehow managed not to sign up enough schools and pupils in England for the test results to be considered statistically valid enough for international comparision, the whole point of the exercise, and something which has been achieved in previous years.
This is despite increasing financial incentives from £200, to £500 to £1000 in cash to each participating school.
This all sheds an interesting light on the reign of Charles Clarke, who was the Education Secretary at the time, before being appointed Home Secretary a couple of months ago.
As an FOIA request, this one seems to have been successful, with some previously unreleased documents being made available, carefully redacted to remove the personal names of DfES and OECD officials, which is perfectly acceptable, whilst showing the sequence of events.
For those of you interested in comparative educational standards, or wishing to question the Government on school standards, this FOIA reest could prove useful for further probes e.g.
- Scotland and Northern Ireland did manage to provide a statistically valid sample to the OECD. What about Wales ?
- If the ONS cannot persuade enough schools to participate, should the contract be given to someone else ?
Letter from the DfES, via email, 11th February 2005, i.e. after only 15 working days: