'Skewed' Ofsted reading report slammed

October 25, 1996

University of London academics who shot holes in a report on children's reading standards by the Office for Standards in Education say the organisation needs a few basic lessons in research technique.

Peter Mortimore, director of the Institute of Education, and his colleague Harvey Goldstein say that the Ofsted report into reading standards in 45 inner London primary schools is flawed, inaccurate and misleading. They published an 11-page critique of the report earlier this week.

Professor Mortimore said that the report, which attacks poor standards in reading and teaching, attempted to draw conclusions on standards nationally from a "skewed" sample based on London schools in poor areas and with high ethnic populations.

He said that it was unrealistic to build a national picture of reading standards based on the results of reading tests held in schools where fewer than half the children had English as their first language and where more than half came from economically deprived backgrounds associated with underachievement.

"Ofsted should take much greater care with its research in the future and if it goes into research mode then it should use the rules that researchers operate by," he said.

An Ofsted spokeswoman defended the research methodologies by stressing that the reading test had been administered by the National Foundation for Educational Research and that inspectors from the local education authorities concerned and an analyst from Oxford University had been involved. She said that ethnic and socio-economic factors had been taken into account as well as the particular and peculiar nature of inner-city schools.

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