Inaccurate figures discovered in school consultation underplays IW student success post-18 (updated)

Just days after the launch of the latest school consultation on the Isle of Wight, OnTheWight readers have discovered statistics quoted in the paperwork are inaccurate and misleading. Things at least 1.5 times better than they seemed.


Back in December 2014, OnTheWight reported Cllr Jonathan Bacon’s concerns about the low number of A-Level pupils going onto University education.

Reading from the consultation document prepared by Hampshire officers, he told members of the Scrutiny Committee,

“Students completing A-levels progressing to higher education were 27% on the Isle of Wight, 1% to a top third university. That compares nationally to 44% and and 9% respectively.

“This is something we could be doing better.”

Research reveals misleading data
This figure didn’t sit well with a number of OnTheWight readers and when it was raised again last week within our report on A-Level results. OnTheWight contributor, Wendy Varley, decided to look further into statistics, raising it in Readers’ comments.

Digging through the historical data provided by the Department for Education, it became clear the figure quoted in the consultation paper was not only inaccurate, but also misleading.

This figure is important as it’s one of those used to strengthen the argument for change in post-16 provision on the Island and quoted several times in the consultation document.

Only college data used
The 27% statistic cited in the consultation paper and council meetings relates only to those taking A-Levels and going onto higher education from the Isle of Wight College.

It doesn’t include statistics of A-Level pupils from the Island’s secondary schools as it should have done.

The correct figure for the year cited (2011/12) should have been 43% not 27%, with the national average at 53%.

Improvements being made
Data for the following year (2012/13) was released earlier last week (after the launch of the consultation).

It shows some improvement with the number of A-Level pupils (from both college and schools) on the Isle of Wight going onto higher education raising two percentage points to 45% (national average 48%).

Those A-Level pupils from the college moving up to higher education jumped from 27% to 37% (just two points away from the national average 39%, for colleges).

Who checks the data?
Whilst it is clear there are other issues within the education system on the Isle of Wight that need to be tackled, the council has stressed this consultation has to be taken seriously.

Errors likes these – that have to be discovered and corrected by members of the general public, albeit ones with a passion for education on the Island – have the potential to shake confidence in the veracity of the entire document.

Hampshire education officers compiling the report should have been able to skip through the DfE spreadsheets with great ease – locating the correct figures.

Other errors, such as unfinished sentences and typos, are also found in the document.

OnTheWight understand the council are due to address the 27% error this morning. It’s hoped that, for the sake of confidence in this important document, it’s been thoroughly reviewed and all mistakes corrected.

Below is how the council chose to ‘bring it to peoples’ attention’, buried in the middle of a positive press release issued this morning (Monday).

The Isle of Wight Council is welcoming queries, comments and challenges that are beginning to come in as part of the recently launched consultation on school and post-16 places.

The consultation was launched on 26 January and runs until 30 April, with a number of public meetings planned – the first at Carisbrooke College at 6pm on Tuesday 3 February.

Isle of Wight Council leader and Executive member for children’s services, Jonathan Bacon, said:

“We are already seeing a steady stream of emails as part of the consultation with various comments and queries including challenges to the accuracy of some information. I really welcome the fact that the full public engagement has now started and that people are taking the time to read and respond.

“It will be through this robust public scrutiny, in which I hope many people on the Island will engage, that everyone should ultimately be satisfied that we are considering all the relevant and accurate information and that this is a full and open consultation where all views will be listened to and considered.”

As a result of feedback so far the council is amending the figures quoted on page 6 of the consultation document in relation to the percentage of A-Level leavers who move onto higher education.

The figures quoted related only to those young people at a college of whom 27 per cent of Isle of Wight leavers were moving into higher education compared to a national (college leavers) average of 44 per cent. The figures that should have been shown are for all young people in schools and colleges. These are 43 per cent of Isle of Wight leavers moving to higher education compared to 53 per cent nationally. Recently released (Tuesday 27 January) figures from the DfE for the 2012/13 academic year shows the national average for all young people in schools and colleges has dropped to 48 per cent which the Isle of Wight average has risen to 45 per cent.

This will be corrected on the page where the consultation document and supporting data can be found.

Councillor Bacon added

“I want to thank the member of the public who first brought this to our attention. This has enabled us to make the necessary changes at a very early stage of the consultation. It was an error on our behalf for which we apologise.

“The overriding message remains the same though – that we are still behind the national averages on this and other key outcomes for our young people and improvements need to be made.”

The Frequently Asked Questions section of the consultation web pages at will be constantly updated to ensure it covers all queries raised during the consultation. There will also be messages posted should something new be added, including further information and background materials. There will also be a page that explains any corrections or changes to the consultation document – what they were and when they were made.

Image: horiavarlan under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 2nd February, 2015 8:32am



Filed under: Education, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, School Reform, Top story

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54 Comments on "Inaccurate figures discovered in school consultation underplays IW student success post-18 (updated)"

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The Sciolist

Incredible! Council incompetence seems at times to be endemic. Issuing erroneous A level figures is unforgivable and highly damaging to morale.

Very well done for discovering the crass mistake.

Geoff Lumley

Only too credible, I’m afraid. I have sought clarification on other inconsistencies in the data as presented and what the PSBR funding for new build schools actually gets us, but as ever I am fobbed off…….


Geoff Lumley,I have tried to get Luisa Hillard on previous postings to reply,on why the IW Council used Figures of School Children Walking To School on the IW Council Revenue Bid for LSTF while planning to axe Funding For School Crossing Patrols(Safety).Do you know why,Geoff?

Geoff Lumley

Sorry Derek, no idea. The Executive no longer discuss anything with me. Its called being non-partisan…….


Phil Jordan, I did ask Steve Stubbings and you, If you knew why Luisa Hillard had not replied, to the above question posted on a previous post?

phil jordan


Sorry, no… I have no idea why she has not replied (if that is the case).


No.Luisa Hillard,has not replied to the question, Phil Jordan.


Another example of my constant warnings that stats published by public bodies should always be checked independently. Such publications are often inaccurate and framed to support implicit agendas.

Well done people!

Wendy Varley
Thanks, OtW! Important to add that the 1% to “top-third” universities figure was also wrong, of course. In 2011/12 11% of mainstream-educated island students went to top-third universities after sixth form (England average was 15%), and in 2012/13 it rose to 14% (England average was 16%). Also interesting: in the data for 2012/13, although the 45% figure for the island’s mainstream-educated IW students going on to higher… Read more »
Wendy Varley
To add to the destinations data available (as school-by-school detail isn’t in the consultation paper): % of students going on to higher education from state-funded mainstream schools and colleges in 2012/13: England 48% SouthEast 42% Isle of Wight 45% Hampshire 41% Carisbrooke College 45% Medina College 51% (nb Carisbrooke & Medina share a joint sixth form but are counted separately in DfE stats) Cowes Enterprise 52% Ryde… Read more »
Nicholas Lighton
What is particularly concerning with these apparent mistakes in the statistics is that they were compiled by Hampshire, a county that is supposed to know what it’s doing when it comes to education. Or at least thats what we were told. Could it be deliberate mistakes per chance, to support a hidden agenda. All council services should be on the hands of organisations that are fully accountable… Read more »
Geoff Lumley

‘What we were told’. Sounds very familiar from the period 2009-13…….

Deliberate mistakes – conspiracy, you mean? Far more likely to be cock-up. If national governments cut funding to local government, so that local governments cut staff, so that the people who are left have more work than they can cope with and do things in a rush, and there are not enough people to ensure that every document is proofread by somebody else before it’s published, is… Read more »
Victor Meldrew

The figures do not include those who took a break after high school. There are 3 students at Aber to my knowledge that fall into that category.

Wendy Varley

Feel free to trawl through the government’s “destinations” data yourself, VM – they cover more than just the proportion to HE. I think they include a column for deferred entry.


“Lies, damned lies, and statistics”

Vix Lowthion
“Errors likes these – that have to be discovered and corrected by members of the general public, albeit ones with a passion for education on the Island – have the potential to shake confidence in the veracity of the entire document” ^^ exactly this. I saw that 27% and questioned it – albeit on this forum! And was told where the stats came from, but I couldn’t… Read more »
phil jordan
Nicholas Lighton: Unfortunately, one month after taking over the administration of this Council, in June 2013, we opened a letter from the government Minister who instructed us to appoint Hampshire to manage our failed education and childrens’ safeguarding responsibility for five years (minimum). The eight years of the previous (mal)administration of education on the Island – which oversaw increasing capacity into our secondary education system by about… Read more »
Vix Lowthion

Isn’t that up to the staff, governors and headteachers of our secondary schools to choose how to appropriate funds? The professionals? And not the council?

Albert Street

Oh Dear. As usual the expected response form a member of the administration – It was the other lot gov.

phil jordan

albert street:

the truth can be uncomfortable ….

retired Hack

Albert, I’m interested in your theory that this administration created 1,600 surplus places in two years. Slaughtering of the first-born, was it? Transportation to Australia for all Key Stage 2 failures? Hunger Games IoW-style to remind everyone who’s in charge? Kept pretty quiet abort all that in Framework for Change, didn’t they? Disgraceful…

Anon Again
@retired hack – not suggesting that this has been done again in this instance as I haven’t checked the previous years surplus places data. However, the suggestion that officers might unilaterally and without explanation double the number of surplus places in schools isn’t far fetched at all. In fact it was one of the issues brought up in the arguments about the three to two tier proposals.… Read more »
Albert Street
@ Mr Jordan I guess that I am just tired of hearing you telling me that this is not your administrations fault(Just look at the title of the article that should give you a clue) After nearly two years your administration should have stamped your authority on this and other matters i.e. Island Roads PFI contract. Did your ex-leader not sack the education portfolio holder. Oh! do… Read more »
Don’t be ridiculous Albert, they are saying it’s not their fault because it *clearly* isn’t, and they are trying to fix it whether you like their approach or not. There are no instant solutions or popular solutions but that’s the reality, Islanders voted for a Conservative Council that screwed up the education system and a Conservative MP that supports deep cuts to public services so we’ll have… Read more »
Albert Street

@ Chris

I would not consider that after nearly two years in office my expectations of this administration are regarded as wanting instant or popular solutions.

Nicholas Lighton
Hi Phil Whilst I fully understand that the present administration were left with no choice but to outsource these services,it is somewhat alarming that Hampshire can make such errors. In terms of the number of spare 16-18 places on the island, this is a result of both local and central government mal administration. That is, central government under the Tories allowed the creation of a free school… Read more »
phil jordan
nicholas lighton: Nicholas, Thanks for the helpful comments… We are out to consultation and hope we get back some clear ideas about what we can do for our children right across the Island. I have not been involved in any discussions, formally or even informally, about ANY plans for our secondary schools so truthfully cannot say what is going to happen. It is true to say that… Read more »

Phil, have you read the consultation document? Appendix J first paragraph. What is your interpretation please?

Are you wanting the Nodehill site back? (Finance or education? – Council funding appears to be the focus rather than education.)

phil jordan
john: Yes, I have read the document. Appendix J attempts to identify the underlying issue of surplus places. It states, correctly we may assume, that surplus places do not directly impact on educational attainments. It delicately suggests that the effect of surplus places will (possibly) encourage movements between schools and that will (could?) impact the outcomes in educational terms. I’m not aware of anything specific with Nodehill…… Read more »

Thanks Phil, ‘delicately’, ‘possibly’ and ‘could’! The abilty for students to change school would exist unless there were NO spare places at all, and the Fair Access Protocol was removed by Government?

Hardly a useful statement in a claimed robust consultation IMHO.

Wendy Varley
To have any meaningful debate about our schools, we need to have confidence that the data in the consultation document is clear and accurate, and know what the rationale for change really is. The statement that outcomes are “very poor” in terms of progression to university was false, and I’m glad it is now being amended in the consultation paper. (The Isle of Wight’s progression-to-uni rate from… Read more »
phil jordan

wendy varley:

The “key reason” is and always has been the problem of this Island having around 1600 surplus places across the Island.
You may wish to discuss attainments and no doubt others will engage in that debate but we should be clear about what the underpinning issue and problem is…. surplus places.

Vix Lowthion

Surplus places based on building sizes? Or class sizes? The focus of the consultation report appears to be on numbers of forms on entry – and thus the capacity of the buildings.

phil jordan
vix lothian: Appendix J: “There are various ways to calculate surplus places, none of them definitive. These can be based on the Net Capacity Assessment (NCA) of a school or Published Admission Numbers year on year. The NCAs are widely used by the DfE and give a pupil capacity for the buildings as a range. They are based on a school floor area multiplied by a utilisation… Read more »
Vix Lowthion
But this would be reduced should Nodehill be sold and the 6th form there put back onto another already vacant site? And the numbers projected for 2020 are about 400 pupils higher too? Couldn’t we sell off part of the buildings for – for instance – the under capacity school at Carisbrooke and use that money to improve/rebuild the school buildings for a more consolidated Carisbrooke school?… Read more »
Anon Again
@Phil – my understanding is that the initial Ministerial instruction (before your administration took over) was to find a Local Authority partner to take over Children’s Social Care due to the failed OFSTED. Hampshire wouldn’t do this unless we gave them schools too so we effectively voluntarily handed our schools over to Hampshire. That’s one more page in the book which will never be written “The Many… Read more »
phil jordan
vix lowthian: You miss the point. The funding that is allocated to schools is (largely) dependent on numbers of pupils. The overall funding received is also reduced if there is surplus capacity in a school. That reduced funding is then required to finance the education within that school. Currently, to be able to maintain 6th forms in the schools (apart from one school)funding is being used from… Read more »
Vix Lowthion
I think that consolidation of our existing schools is paramount, and my preference would be to support reducing surplus places across the board. However, as I see it the big stumbling block to this is the carrot of money for rebuilding Carisbrooke – as that will only be justified if Carisbrooke becomes a huge 11 form entry school, and thus Medina would have to close. I know… Read more »
The council are blundering about as per normal with their own fixed, blinkered ideas about education on the Island. This isn’t helped by the ridiculous unworkable situation that has been created by central government with the Academies and Free schools. The proposed reorganisation is doomed to failure becuase it is like moving the deckchairs on the Titanic. Until we get a strong MP to put the Islands… Read more »
phil jordan
colin: We are working within the parameters we are given… not blundering about. While we wait for your proposal to take hold, getting an MP elected; getting *that* MP to plead a ‘special case’ for the Island, getting that special case implemented to remove academies and free schools (quite why that would be done for the Island but nowhere else I have no idea…) we might be… Read more »

Phil, I totally agree with your comment and tried to give it a supportive +1. However, the OTW system has inexplicably recorded my + as a -.


@ Phil

Working within the parameters.

Exactly. I agree. Unfortunately the parameters that currently exist prevent any meaningful and sensible decisions.

The proposals are all about money and not education.
(yes, I know, there’s no pit let alone a bottomless pit)


@Phil “Meanwhile….. what shall we do about surplus places in our schools……?”

Ignore them because they will soon be filled up with children from the new housing developments the IWC will be “forced” to approve by a Tory government.

Today David Cameron threw education into the election arena by announcing that cuts in spending to finance schools would not stay in line with inflation. This obviously indicates the direction they wish to take, which will be cuts. The electorate will have to take this into account when they vote. Academies and Free schools have thus also been entered into debate. In the debate the Conservatives have… Read more »
It appears to be the long-term aim of all government since Thatcher’s to dumb down and privatise education. Dumbing-down make a less-educated populace easier to control while grade inflation of exam results comforts students but provides little real benefit otherwise and eventually leads to frustration. Note that in recent years revolutions in many countries have been sparked off by graduates unemployed and frustrated by lack of opportunity.… Read more »

We cannot blame or humiliate the report writers here. it is not fair.
They went to LEA run Primary and Comprehensive Schools and not shiny new brilliant Academies with Superheads.

Many took their GCSE’s, A-Levels and Degrees under a Labour administration

Have they not suffered enough?

Billy Builder

Yes, you must feel sorry for them, they would have attended school and university at a time when GCSE and A-Level were based on percentages of people making each grade, ie 5% of the year group getting grade A, and when the LEA not only paid your university fees, but also provided student grants to cover a students living costs.

Come the Tories come the excessive costs!


“In the debate the Conservatives have said that failing schools will be taken into account and will become Academies.” and failing academies will will be taken into account and return to LEA control?

Fat chance given the increasing neoliberal dogma of the Tories.


Per the PM as reported by the Beeb. The prime minister said funding per pupil would not be cut in cash terms and would provide £7bn for places for rising numbers of pupils”

How does “rising number of pupils” gell with “surplus places”?


Cameron was referring to national trends, not specifically those on the Isle of Wight.


AFAIK IoW is still part of the UK and thus a part of the national trend. or is the demand for places everywhere else is increasing but decreasing on the Island alone?


Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt says the key to improving standards is “really high quality teaching in the classroom”

Duh! How much is this wally paid to state the (sanguinary) obvious?