Watchdog contradicts earlier warning: OK to use dodgy Ofsted data in debates

Janet Downs's picture

The way the Department for Education (DfE) presented Ofsted data was potentially misleading, the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said in a stinging rebuke last October.   Although the oft-repeated claim that 1.9m more children were in good or better schools since 2010 was factually correct, it didn’t present a ‘full picture’, UKSA wrote.

Since then, the government from the Prime Minister downwards has repeated the dodgy data.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner complained:   the government wasn’t taking UKSA warnings ‘seriously’.

UKSA replied.  Contradicting its previous advice, the watchdog didn’t consider citing the contentious figures in the examples given by Rayner was ‘misleading’.  

The watchdog confirmed it had ‘suggested’ the DfE should put these figures in context: using them otherwise risked being deceptive.   However, UKSA didn’t consider them to be misleading if used ‘…in the course of debate or when providing statistical quotes.’  In such situations ‘Ministers have necessarily to be concise’.

This is extraordinary.   Previous complaints had centred around the figures being used in debates and in statistical quotes.   UKSA said this was disingenuous if used without background.  UKSA then does an about-turn and says it’s OK to use the statistics in debates and in statistical quotes.

No wonder the DfE doesn’t take UKSA warnings seriously.

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