It’s just over a week since the UK Statistics Authority told Guardian journalist Warwick Mansell
that it had written to the Department for Education expressing concern about its use of school test data. The watchdog said the DfE should in future make it clear comparisons of improvement in performance by school type ‘could not be used by ministers and others 'to imply a “causal link” between academy status and improvements in test results’.
I also wrote to the watchdog about the use of school performance data by the DfE and ministers. Today I have received a reply. The watchdog found some statistics in the Annual Academies Report ‘had not previously been released as official statistics and that the source data are unpublished’. The Authority noted the report included ‘helpful analysis and explanation of the source data’ that the DfE had used. Nevertheless, the watchdog concluded ‘publishing the statistics initially as official statistics would also enable information on limitations and impartial commentary to be provided to guide Interpretation and use’.
In October 2014, the statistics watchdog criticised the DfE
for linking official school performance statistics to a ministerial statement which was not impartial. This hadn’t sufficiently distinguished between official data and political analysis, the watchdog concluded, and it didn’t meet professional standards.
Since then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has been criticised twice by the watchdog for her use of Key Stage 2 test results. Let’s hope the DfE and ministers will take into account the watchdog’s concerns about impartiality and misuse of statistics to imply a causal effect between school type and results.
The letter to me from the UK Statistics Authority will eventually be published on its website