It would help the public understand school funding claims if the Department for Education published ‘a consistent and comprehensive set of official statistics on school funding’, Ed Humpherson of the UK Statistics Authority has told the department.
The watchdog said the DfE had taken steps to improve ‘technical accuracy’ of school funding statements but UKSA was still concerned about presentation of these figures. For example, complaints had been made about how schools minister Nick Gibb had used school spending data on Channel 4 news. UKSA said Gibb hadn’t made it clear his figures were for 5 to 16 years only. The Institute for Fiscal Studies supported the claim but the underlying figures could only be found with difficulty and required ‘additional analysis’.
As well as concerns about how the DfE and ministers presented school funding data, the watchdog had received a complaint concerning ‘the replicability of music GCSE figures’ cited by Nick Gibb during oral evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in December.
UKSA had also received a complaint about how education secretary Damian Hinds had used data about improved outcomes for sponsored academies since 2010 in a DfE press release.
In light of these concerns, UKSA and the DfE have discussed how important it is to ensure statements made by the DfE and ministers are underpinned by accurate and up to date analysis which could be verified through ‘publicly available data’.
UKSA welcomed the work by DfE statisticians ‘to improve transparency of statements in an efficient way.’ Nevertheless, the watchdog wanted the DfE to focus not just on whether ministers quoted data correctly but also whether, 'in the context, the use being made of them is liable to mislead.’
The watchdog has produced separate annex which gives further information.
EXTRA: 31 May 11.37. Schools Week also carries this story describing the UKSA intervention as another 'slap down' from the watchdog.