Magazine article The Spectator

Putting the Record Straight

Magazine article The Spectator

Putting the Record Straight

Article excerpt

In my last Spectator column, I mounted a polemical defence of Michael Gove's GCS E s reforms and, in the course of advancing my argument, I made a claim that I 've subsequently been hounded about.

I ndeed, a website called fullfact. org mounted an investigation into this claim and concluded that I was guilty of 'gross exaggeration'. Needless to say, my political opponents have seized upon this and accused me of making stuff up out of whole cloth.

I n their eyes, I 'm now a right-wing version of Johann Hari. So I thought I 'd take this opportunity to discuss the charge.

The claim in question was made in the context of ridiculing Andy Burnham, who was Labour's shadow education secretary from 2010-11, for implying working-class children were incapable of getting a grade C in GCS E F rench. 'Better to let them drop the foreign language requirement and do a BT E C in how to claim the dole instead, ' I wrote. '( I 'm not making that last qualification up, by the way. ) That's not "elitist". Oh no.

That's "inclusive".'

Now, I 'll admit, including the phrase ' I 'm not making that last qualification up' was a gold-embossed invitation to anyone remotely sceptical about my argument to look into whether you could, in fact, do a BT E C in claiming benefits. And, sure enough, fullfact. org did precisely that.

To be fair, the fact-checkers weren't just looking at my Spectator column. They pointed out that the Prime Minister made a similar claim in a speech earlier this year and, before that, it appeared at least three times in the Daily Mail.

After exhaustive research, the fact-checkers discovered that a curriculum development organisation called ASDAN has devised a BT E C called the Certificate of Personal E ffectiveness, and one component of that course does involve finding out 'what benefits you're entitled to if you're unemployed'. So far, so good.

However, they go on to say that this is only one task among many and it isn't mandatory. Pupils hoping to earn this certificate can choose to do another question instead - such as learn to play a board game or visit a theme park and 'report back'. On that basis, fullfact. org decided that my repetition of this canard was 'an example of Chinese Whispers that needs to be put to bed'.

But is it? …

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