Thursday, January 07, 2010

Is Left Foot Forward Really "Evidence Based"?

Left Foot Forward rather pioulsy describes itself as an "evidence based blog". Why, therefore, is THIS story still on its site? It alleges a Conservative U-Turn on Educational Maintenance Allowances. The author of the piece, James Mills, alleged that David Cameron had reversed Tory policy on EMAs at a Cameron Direct meeting in Hammersmith. He said that Cameron had said he would keep EMAs, while other Tories, like Michael Gove were committed to outright abolition.

After seeing a video of the event LFF admitted that the words attributed to Cameron had not actually been uttered. This is what Cameron actually said (according to the video of the evening) ...

“We’ve looked at Educational Maintenance Allowances and we haven’t announced any plan to get rid of them. They do often if you go to schools and ask people what they think of them and ask young people themselves, they get quite a mixed reception actually because some people can see them as a bit divisive, but no we don’t have any plans to get rid of them.

When pushed to answer whether he supported EMAs, Cameron responded “Yes”.

So in other words he stuck to existing party policy, as reported by The Guardian...

The Conservatives say they have no specific plans to reform the EMA. Michael Gove, the shadow children's secretary, says: "We're committed to doing everything we can to close the gap in achievement between the poorest and the wealthiest at school."

If LFF really is an 'evidence based blog' it should issue an apology for this blogpost after having removed it. Its headline is wrong and its content has been proved to be completely wrong.

Having said all of that, personally, I'd be very happy if Cameron had changed party policy. EMAs are a waste of money and there are far better ways to encourage 16 year olds to remain in education. Providing a decent education might be a good start.

15 comments:

Peter Baxter said...

It should also be pointed out - because it purports to be an "independent" blog - that Left Foot Forward is run by Labour supporters. In fact, Will Straw, who runs it, is actually the son of Jack Straw, so it can hardly be an "independent" mouthpiece. So no wonder it churns out this load of rubbish.

The question we should be asking is: are our taxes funding this blog?

Dingdongalistic said...

Sixth-form colleges, such as Hereford Sixth Form College, often provide an excellent education, so it is fatuous to suggest that the only way in which to encourage 16 year olds into further education is through quality. EMA is actually a clever policy, because, as you quite failed to recognise, it is dependent upon high attendance -- in theory 100%, although it isn't unheard of for teachers to allow a small amount of leeway.

In addition to this, bonuses are dependent upon term-long high attendance, and are sometimes linked to meeting your target grades. The system is devised to create strong incentives for achievement in education and is about far more than just money being given to low and middle income families.

Will Straw said...

Iain,

Three points:

1) We issued a clarification as soon as it became apparent that James' recollections of David Cameron's precise comments were wrong. But the substantive point remains that David Cameron now says he supports EMAs when he previously said "we think there are some really practical problems and issues with that sort of compulsion", Grayling said it had done “absolutely nothing to help solve this country’s chronic skills shortage” and Michael Gove called them a flop. Read our full piece for the full story.

2. The point about describing ourselves as "evidence-based" was simply that we would use links and first-hand testimony to back up our stories and would try and avoid churning out too much opinion. Generally we get it right but we sometimes get it wrong. If we do so we correct it - something that can't be said for all bloggers.

3. We are a "non-partisan" progressive blog in that we have contributions from Labour, Lib Dem, Green and even "Progressive Conservative" writers. I am a Labour activist and make no bones about it.

In answer to Peter Baxter: no your taxes are not funding the blog. What an absurd idea!

Will

Iain Dale said...

Will
Your piece asserted that it was Tory policy to abolish EMAs. It isn't. It never has been. None of those quotes commit the party to abolishing EMAs (unfortunately, in my view).

It therefore follows that the headline and piece are totally incorrect and thoroughly misleading.

Political Geek said...

http://politicalgeek.tumblr.com/post/321515493

Peter Baxter said...

"I am a Labour activist and make no bones about it."

So he admits to being a Labour activist! In which case, how can he purport to write an "independent" blog?

Grumpy Old Man said...

"Sixth-form colleges, such as Hereford Sixth Form College, often provide an excellent education, so it is fatuous to suggest that the only way in which to encourage 16 year olds into further education is through quality." So the quality of education does not bear any relationship to pupil enthusism? And you call Iain Dale "fatuous"?

"EMA is actually a clever policy, because, as you quite failed to recognise, it is dependent upon high attendance -- in theory 100%, although it isn't unheard of for teachers to allow a small amount of leeway."
Any fool can sit at a desk all day and meet an attendance target. Members of this present administration have been doing it for years.

".... bonuses are dependent upon term-long high attendance, and are sometimes linked to meeting your target grades.... Oh Wow! performance related pay! If you were able to say "invariably linked to meeting your target grades" I'd have been right with you. In fact, using the I word in the Student Contract would make the EMA a much better vehicle for enthusing the student, as well as allowing the student contact with the working world. It might even remove some of Iain's disagreement with the policy.

Political Scrapbook said...

Chris Grayling, January 2005: "[EMAs] do absolutely nothing to help solve this country's chronic skills shortage."

David Cameron, November 2007: "we think there are some really practical problems and issues with that sort of compulsion"

Michael Gove, August 2008: EMAs are a flop.

Any intelligent person reading the statements above would reasonably conclude that EMAs would be for the chop under the Tories. The education sector certainly did.

But now Cameron says he supports them. If that isn't a U-turn, Iain, then what on earth is?!

Mr. Musicology said...

Is yours and ToryBears "Kerryout" smear campaign what Cameron meant by a "good clean fight".

Anonymous said...

Iain, like you I would abolish EMA. In our area (a mix of all classes), I can tell you that about 95% of it goes on booze, drugs, clothesm clubbing and is phenomenally divisive for those youngsters who are not eligible. Plus, every youngster I know with divorced/seperated parents tends to 'fiddle' the house they say is their main residence, in order to qualify. The money could be so much better used in education. I do feel there is a seperate case for helping sixth form students who require musical instruments, or a travel allowance. But otherwise it is a simply crazy spend with NO EVIDENCE AT ALL that it has any use.

Tom Powdrill said...

"the headline and piece are totally incorrect and thoroughly misleading"

err.. a bit like this then?

"McFall Blames Brown for Lax Regulation"

Since he doesn't seem to have named Brown at all, it's just your interpretation. I'm not even sure that you can claim McFall was having a go indirectly at Brown. He was criticising the FSA's regulatory stance, not the regulatory architecture (the tripartite system).

Jimmy said...

"If LFF really is an 'evidence based blog' it should issue an apology for this blogpost after having removed it."

Isn't this a little rich? Only recently you deleted a nasty smear against Prionsias de Rossa which you had unwisely copied unchecked from Harry Cole's site. I think you'd agree a far more serious allegation than the one made against Cameron. If there was an apology then I confess I missed it. Your house your rules of course but you can hardly demand standards of others than you yourself are not willing to apply.

John77 said...

Will Straw's claim to be evidence based rings hollow since he regularly suppresses comments that point out factual errors in his posts.

Shamik said...

"Will Straw's claim to be evidence based rings hollow since he regularly suppresses comments that point out factual errors in his posts."

John77, that is a lie. We have only ever deleted about a dozen posts, that were all full of the most personal abuse aimed at Will and I.

You're talking rubbish, complete rubbish.

Stephanieee said...

I attend college for a year and was not eligable to attain EMA since the year before my father had been paid well as he had got ajob, then when i was attending college he didnt have one, therefore i was struggling to cope with Train fees, clothing for college and food. getting a job is made harder aswell as places wont employ you as you go to college or the people who get EMA snap up the jobs to susbidise their EMA to make sure that if they dont wanna go to college one day they can skive off and still get some money. i found that the EMA money was often spent on drugs, booze, music, video games, dvds and anything besides the educational purpose it was therefore. i also found that a friend of mine with a disabled mother was denyed access to EMA as her mother got disability payments! this fact disgusted me! i often found that people who got EMA when they went to college werent really there to learn but to earn! there opinion was that if they turned up and handed in some coursework theyd get there money and that was that! i believe EMA should be scrapped and a new fairer system where everyone who attends postsecodary education is considered should be brought it as it will prove more benificail!