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4:06pm on Friday, 4th May, 2007:
The front page of today's Independent is devoted to criticism of the growth of private education in the UK. Apparently, record numbers of children are being educated privately, with the trend rising since Labour took office ten years ago. Here's the graph that proves it:
Well, that certainly looks quite a rise there. But wait, what's this? The graph has its origin at 470,000. They've just shown the top of it. They could make that look as bad as they liked by adjusting the scale. Here it is again, looking even worse:
To give a fair reflection of how pupil numbers are rising, they should show the whole graph. If they did that, it would look something like this:
Now it doesn't seem to be much of a rise at all.
Also, the graph reflects an absolute rise in privately-educated students. Given that the population of the country has gone up by over 2 million since 1997, a commensurate rise in those being privately educated isn't entirely surprising. What would be more useful would be a comparison of the change in proportion of students who are educated privately.
In an effort to show how students are deserting state schools in their droves, the Independent says this:
Wow! A 1.5% rise in the number of privately-educated sixth-formers! A whole 1,205 extra students — it must be that, what, two or three new colleges have opened! Other than a falling lack of quality of sixth-form education, what possible explanation could there be for this vast expansion programme?
Er, might it be that the fact there are more university places than there were ten years ago has led to an increase in the number of sixth-formers in general, and this is being reflected in the figures for those being given a private education?
I'm not a fan of private education, and I'm all for giving the government a good kicking, but really, if this is the best the Independent can do then they really shouldn't bother.
<Insert ironic remark relating the education of the Independent's readership here.>
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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).