Press releases re official data should be accurate, clear and impartial, says new Code of Practice.

Janet Downs's picture

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has criticised the Department for Education (DfE) on many occasions about its use of official statistics (see here,  here  and here for examples).

The New Code of Practice for Official Statistics should end DfE misuse of data – at least in theory.  The Code says:

Policy, press or ministerial statements referring to regular or ad hoc official statistics should be issued separately from, and contain a prominent link to, the source statistics. The statements should meet basic professional standards of statistical presentation, including accuracy, clarity and impartiality.’

Whether this will stop the DfE press department and ministers spinning official data, failing to put statistics in context or ignoring warnings to use data with caution is unclear.  But the new Code should be a warning.

The requirement to include a ‘prominent link’ to the source data is welcome.  If that rule had been in effect when the DfE issued its press release about a speech by the education secretary Damian Hinds it would have been obvious from the speech transcript that Hinds did not say the words attributed to him in the press release.  

However, it’s unlikely a speech comes under the heading ‘official statistics’.   Nevertheless, if a press release refers to a speech then it’s to be hoped the article will link to the speech.

The new Code of Practice should prevent future misuse of official statistics.  But the DfE’s track record in ignoring UKSA criticism doesn’t bode well.

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John Bajina's picture
Sun, 25/02/2018 - 13:44

Janet, we can hope.
I fear that since just before the Referendum, a culture has been allowed to develop whereby liars and cheats are romanticised for getting what they want by any means.
It will be argued that it was ever thus, however I will say not to this degree. Also, is it not time to bring liars and cheats to heal? Why is there such a reluctance from the law to do this?

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