Ofsted’s Research Review of Mathematics Education

Much has been written about the poor quality of ‘research reviews’ published by Ofsted recently, however the Mathematics research review published in May 2021 broke so many rules in the standards usually applied to reviewing research that, rather than having been written by authors with experience in research, it appears to have been created by experts skilled in extracting words from a social media posts and deliberately wrapping them in text crafted to misrepresent their meaning and discredit their author.  

In September 2021, an article in Mathematics Teaching carefully detailed the four key rules for standards in research that were all broken in this review, providing examples of each. 

The first rule broken was claiming that one observed occurrence was causing another, when in fact all that was observed was that both things were occurring together in situations where there were likely to have been underlying factors causing both. Considering this reminds me of the speech of Schools Minister Nick Gibb to ACME conference in 2012 where he made profoundly disturbing claims about the teaching of long division in this way.  I remember the discussions afterwards about how anybody who questioned him was not only being removed from their profession role and their types of employment were then being shut down. Our national curriculum was then rewritten to ensure we taught content younger than anywhere else in the world and apparatus was removed from tests for six-year-olds. 10 years later we are rolling out a deeply disturbing new exam for 8-year-olds which is all based on the beliefs of this minister which contradict research evidence.

The other three key rules which were broken were:

  • research results were oversimplified and overgeneralised.
  • recommendations for practice were built on studies which clearly did not meet the high standards delivered by respected research institutes and high-quality journals.  
  • substantial bodies of research which contradicted the conclusions reached by this research review were ignored. 

In 2010 our Conservative leaders announced a Maoist Cultural revolution in education.  During the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao, all key reports were consistent with his view that if everybody melted down the steel teaspoons and saucepans in their kitchen to make steel, then there would be a great leap forward in industry.  The evidence that the steel created by this effort would not be of the right grade needed for industry was concealed, and those who spoke about it were disposed of.  The consequences for people who spoke about the millions of deaths which occurred because of this policy were even worse.

I would like to assure readers that this is not going on in England.  As someone who speaks out about what is going on I have;
– been mobbed by fake social media accounts which have influence real ones,

– had to struggle with organisations I am associated with being avalanched with profoundly disturbing untrue complaints about me which were believed,

– been unemployable to the extent that I have only been able to earn enough to pay tax once in the last 11 years,

– had to deal with people telling me that they have been warned that if they ever share links to any of my CPD videos on their social media feeds they will not work for the maths hubs or the NCETM again.

However, a good Conservative friend pointed out that we do not live in a fascist/totalitarian state because if we did, somebody like me would be in prison or dead.  His comment is true and deeply liberating. I am free to speak the truth and I have my family, my friends, enough to eat and my home. Many around the world are not so privileged. 

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