Hit or miss? Michael Gove cites PR surveys in criticising teenagers' knowledge

Education Secretary Michael Gove was discovered to have based a claim of 'disturbing historical ignorance' among teenagers in an article he wrote for The Mail on Sunday in March partly on statistics from PR surveys by Premier Inn and UKTV Gold.

Learn by your mistakes: Michael Gove (Credit:  Education gov uk)
Learn by your mistakes: Michael Gove (Credit: Education gov uk)

Retired teacher Janet Downs brought Gove’s sources to light using Freedom of Information requests, and found that the UKTV Gold poll sampled all age groups, not just teenagers.

How I see it

Matt Carter, UK chief executive, Burson-Marsteller

Michael Gove is entitled to assert that young people have a poor grasp of historical facts, but he needs to provide better evidence.

Using random pieces of research to make his case paints a poor picture of how education policy is being made. It suggests his approach to policy making is less evidence-based and more based on ‘something I read in the paper’.

Just because survey results are newsworthy, it doesn’t mean the methodology is flawed. But as his department neither commissioned the research he cites nor, apparently, viewed the raw data, he should be wary about relying on its conclusions. 

Gove wouldn’t look favourably on A Level history students quoting unsourced facts from the internet. So he shouldn’t be surprised by criticism when he does the same.

Was Gove's use of PR survey stats a hit or miss? Tell us why, below.

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