At the Conservative conference in September of last year, Morgan made reference to educational levels achieved by school children leaving primary school when the previous government left office. In her speech, she stated:
‘13 years of Labour… and 1 in every third child finished primary school unable to read, write or add up.’
On December 4, Andrew Dilnot copied Nicky Morgan into correspondence on the inaccuracy of comments made by her and the schools minister, Sam Gyimah, at the conference in Birmingham.
Six days after Dilnot issued his letter, Morgan made the following statement in the House of Commons:
‘If the shadow secretary of state wants to see a failure to prepare young people for the life of work, he ought to be thinking about the fact that under the previous Labour government one in three of our young people were leaving primary school unable to read and write. That is a shocking statistic.’
After noting the Hansard record of her comments, Andrew Dilnot wrote to Morgan to correct her in more detailed terms. His letter relates the actual statistics on literacy and numeracy in the timeframe she referred to.
If a child reaches an ability of level three at school, this means they can ‘read a range of texts fluently and accurately’, write in a way which is ‘often organised, imaginative and clear’, and they can ‘add and subtract numbers with two digits mentally and numbers with three digits using written methods.’ Dilnot’s letter then continues to counter Morgan’s ‘one in three’ claim by stating:
‘National statistics on school performance show that, in tests taken in May 2010, 91% of pupils were assessed as reaching level three or above at key stage 2 in reading, 93% in writing, and 93% in mathematics.’
His letter concludes by asking Morgan to reconsider her comments and to seek advice on whether the parliamentary record should be amended in light of this clarification.