Seek and thou shall find - exposing the confirmation bias of British free school critics

Gabriel Sahlgren writes for ConservativeHome

Various commentators aiming to undermine the government’s free school programme have argued that recent research in Sweden suggests a decline in standards and increased segregation. It is interesting that critics have suddenly started to cite such research given that the overwhelming majority of studies display that the Swedish free school system has led to improvements. It is a bit like a punter claiming to be a master at betting on the horses when, after having already lost thousands of pounds, he finally wins back a tenner on a lucky nag.

So what does the evidence say? Regarding educational achievement and Swedish school competition, the academic research only covers grades given on standardised tests and the grade point average. This research displays unequivocally positive effects from free schools.

The paradox, then, is why Swedish pupils generally perform worse in international comparisons today compared to before the school choice reform. The paradox is resolved when it is realised