Stats watchdog has ‘issues’ with School Cuts data despite being able to ‘replicate’ the figures

Janet Downs's picture

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) investigated the claim made by School Cuts that ‘91% of schools face funding cuts’   and found three ‘issues’ with the data, Schools Week reports.  

UKSA admitted it was able to ‘replicate’ the School Cuts figures but said the watchdog wasn’t able to ‘reproduce the exact figures' published on the website.  That was because ‘underlying data’ wasn’t available to the public and the methodology underpinning the claim wasn’t ‘wholly clear’.

The watchdog said School Cuts data weren’t official statistics and the campaign wasn’t therefore under a ‘formal obligation’ to adhere to the Code of Practice for Statistics.   Nevertheless, UKSA ‘encourages compliance…wherever data are being used in public debate’.

UKSA censured School Cuts because its calculations mixed reductions in school budgets which had already happened with projections for the future.  Some schools, UKSA said, could ‘expect future increases in funding to help offset past reductions.’

The calculations also inflated ‘the 2015/16 baseline funding to what it would have been with each school’s 2015/16 per pupil funding but using 2017/18 pupil numbers.’    This created ‘a worse picture’ when pupil numbers in any particular school increased.

The 91% figures covered England only but its website suggested it covered both England and Wales.

Despite UKSA’s criticism, unions behind the School Cuts campaign stood by their data.   

Schools minister Nick Gibb has welcomes UKSA’s letter.  He had previously claimed the School Cuts data was ‘misleading’ while being misleading himself.  He selectively cited the Institute for Fiscal Studies and claimed the internal movement of DfE funds was additional £1.3bn extra funding. 

UKSA severely reprimanded the Department for Education late last year for its use of statistics.   Ministers should, therefore, avoid gloating about the mote in the unions' eyes while ignoring the plank in its own.  There is still a severe funding crisis hitting schools.  There was no need for School Cuts to make it sound worse that it already is - the unvarnished truth is bad enough. 


UPDATE 22 January 2019, 14.30   The NEU has issued a press release defending the Schools Cut  data.   



UKSA’s letter is here

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