1st Edition

The Truth About Our Schools
Exposing the myths, exploring the evidence

ISBN 9781138937178
Published November 24, 2015 by Routledge
184 Pages

USD $32.95

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Book Description

"A superb, crucial, blistering expose of all the myths about our education system that are all too often used to attack it. Melissa Benn again proves why she is one of country's most formidable education campaigners - and why the powerful should fear her.

Owen Jones, Guardian columnist and best-selling author

Never has it been more urgent to publicise the truth about what works and doesn't work in our education system.   Debunking the ideology of marketisation, and exposing the half-truths that pass for objective reporting, Benn and Downs meticulously lay out the evidence: that a national system of comprehensive schools delivers the best outcomes. This hugely important book should be required reading for each new Education Secretary.

Caroline Lucas, MP

Opinions about comprehensive education are often made into easy-to-swallow sound-bites by media and politicians alike and whilst the benefits of a genuinely comprehensive education for all pupils are obvious, untruths have unwittingly evolved into hard facts. Based on Melissa Benn and Janet Downs’ work as part of the pioneering Local Schools Network, The Truth About Our Schools calls for us to urgently and articulately challenge unquestioned myths about state education. Benn and Downs have meticulously built an argument for its still enormously vital role, and rigorously challenge assumptions that:

  • Comprehensive education has failed
  • Local authorities control and hold back schools
  • Choice, competition and markets are the route to educational success
  • Choice will improve education in England: the free school model.
  • Academies raise standards
  • Teachers don’t need qualifications
  • Private schools have the magic DNA
  • Progressive education lowers standards

Anyone who thinks that comprehensive education cannot deliver, that local authorities are the chief block to improving our school system, that competition and markets are the route to educational success and that private schools hold the magic DNA that can simply be transferred to other state schools will have their beliefs shaken by this blisteringly incisive book.


Table of Contents

Myth Number 1: Comprehensive education has failed

Myth Number 2: Local authorities control and hold back schools

Myth Number 3: Choice, competition and markets are the route to educational success

Myth Number 4: Choice will improve education in England: the free school model.

Myth Number 5: Academies raise standards

Myth Number 6: Teachers don’t need qualifications

Myth Number 7: Private schools have the magic DNA

Myth Number 8: Progressive education lowers standards

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Melissa Benn is a journalist and author, a campaigner for high-quality comprehensive education and a founder of the Local Schools Network.

Janet Downs is a retired secondary school teacher. She is now an education researcher and blogs regularly on the Local Schools Network.


"Benn and Downs robustly challenge eight of the most commonly ingrained myths about our schools - such as the claim that 'comprehensive education has failed' - providing compelling evidence to support their arguments in every case. It's invaluable reading" - Teach Secondary

"The Truth About Our Schools powerfully combines Melissa Benn's forceful prose with Janet Downs's solid professional experience into a book which is at once readable and authoratative" - Francis Beckett, Third Age Matters

"This book is most timely and deserves to be read by a wide audience including educators and politicians" - Sarah Brew, Parents in Touch

"This slim but vital volume is sub-titled ‘Exposing the myths, exploring the evidence’, and indeed the seven most common myths are taken apart. Comprehensively. Starting with that big whopper, that comprehensive education has failed, the book moves through local authority ‘control’ of schools, how choice and competition produce success, academies raise standards, teachers don’t need qualifications, the magic DNA of private schools (of course, there is one – parental wealth and connections), and ends with the perennial progressive teaching lowers standards." - Educational Politics