Dear Polly Toynbee…

Dear Polly,

I’m really puzzled by one of the sentences in your piece in today’s Guardian, Executive pay soars while the young poor face freefall. Where is Labour?.

In it you write: “Half of further education colleges report a drop in applications from 16- to 19-year-olds”.

However, as your Guardian colleague Jessica Shepherd wrote when reporting on these numbers earlier in the month: “Just under half of colleges had seen a dip, while 42% said their figures had risen. A fifth of colleges said the number of students had increased by between 5% and 15%.”

What is more, she also reported, “Overall, the number of students had dropped by 0.1%, the equivalent of almost 600 students”.

So when the full picture is that there was a fall of only 0.1%, isn’t simply writing “Half of further education colleges report a drop in applications from 16- to 19-year-olds” rather misleading?

I hope it’s not too cynical of me to suggest that if it were the other way round, namely a rise of just 0.1% but a right-wing pundit boasting about how half of colleges have had an increase, you would quite rightly be pointing out how misleading that “half” number is, unless it is put in the full context?

Perhaps a correction from you would be in order, unless of course there’s some subtlety to your interpretation of the figures that I’ve missed? I think that would be particularly appropriate given that in your piece you go on to criticise others for what you call misleading statistics from them. (Given the correction issue, I have also copied this to the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor.)

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Best wishes etc.

5 responses to “Dear Polly Toynbee…”

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