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December 03, 2009


Statistically Speaking

"A low income household is one that lives on less than 60 per cent of the average UK household income

No. Low income is defined, for official purposes, as 60% of the median household income."

"What we have here are not mere errors of fact or interpretation or verbal infelicities, of the sort that we all commit."

Actually, I think the first example you cite is exactly that Chris. The median IS AN average; in this case average is just sloppy wording and could mean any number of things. It's potentially ambiguous, but it's factually correct.

john adams

I tend to agree with the previous post - it's annoying that the writer didn't explain whether he or she meant mean, median or mode. You'd lose marks in an exam for being inexact but it's not factually incorrect as such.

Janet Daley on the other hand demonstrates an appalling misunderstanding of a very basic mathematical concept, yet still sees fit to pontificate on education policy.


Greg Hurst of the Times went one better than Janet Daley and said that productivity in education had 'fallen to zero', which would be quite newsworthy if true. It was later corrected to 'productivity growth', which suggests that productivity has simply stopped growing - hardly the massive 'waste' suggested.

David Heigham

Forgive a mini-rant.

Hacks have deadlines and less than competent editing as partial excuses. The big, damnable, wasteful idiocy in these stories is pure bad government.

Poverty is a fancy word for not being able to afford what most of us regard as essentials. For well over a decade, it has been common knowledge that a good few of those with low incomes regularly spend more than their income. From undeclared receipts or from savings, they can and do afford things. (Economists expect many households to be spending from savings at any one time.) It follows that some people on higher incomes but in trouble on capital account (loans to repay, etc.) will not be able to afford these essentials - and right now a lot of people are in trouble on capital account. If the government is really interested in poverty, why does it not measure poverty properly rather than in terms of income x% below some type of average?

And why do they pour billions extra into general current spending on education when 50 years of serious searching have found, at best, a very weak positive correlation with any improvement at all in education achieved? It would have been headline news - startling good news - if the fall in education productivity had been only half of the decline recorded. As it is, the ONS is saying that the extra spending had no distinguishable effect; which (as they do not say)was the expected result. I.e., the prior presumption that the money would be wasted is bourne out by the ONS.

Hacks can raise our hackles, but it is government that wastes our money, hopes and futures.

Robert Arbon

By your omission of leftist journalists, are you implying they have a better track record? I'd like to see the evidence...


Both those sentences are factually correct, but slightly misleading.

In the first sentence the median is an average, and in the second, productivity HAS declined, and this is measured through GCSE results. Of course to leave out the fact that productivity is lower because results are better, and additional gains are more expensive is bad journalism. But the facts are right.


If you think that the virtually 100% pass rate for GCSEs is because teachers are so productive nowadays, you're mad. And just the other day spome report came out saying that about 20% of percentage of primary school pupils left having not learnt to read or write properly. I suppose that's evidence of increased productivity too.

My great aunts and uncles went to what passed for State education before the First World War. They left school aged 11 or 12, able to do mental arithmetic that would shame todays 18 year olds. They could write clear English in beautiful handwriting as well. If only the billions spent now resulted in the same outcome.

john adams

Adam - it's not Janet Daley's first sentence that is gibberish, it's the second sentence where she talks of an inverse relationship between money and productivity without the evidence to back it up, giving a strong impression that she doesn't know what she's talking about.


"As it is, the ONS is saying that the extra spending had no distinguishable effect"

Is it? Surely a 43% increase in input and a 7.5% decrease in productivity means quite a large improvement in output, albeit not as much as 43%?

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