Education has always been an important area of statistics and in a post-covid world it may be even more important. The next few years will be key to understanding the impact that covid has had on children in education.
A few months ago we reported that we at the Office for Statistics regulation (OSR) was carrying out an assessment of the Key Stage 4 performance statistics for England, published by the Department for Education, as part of our pre-planned programme of assessments.
The KS4 statistics are badged as national statistics, which means that they have previously been judged to comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics.
As part of our role as statistics regulators, we regularly revisit such statistics to check that they still meet these high standards and that they are still fit for purpose. To do this, we collected evidence for each of the three pillars of the code: trustworthiness, quality and value.
We have now completed our assessment and the full report can be found here.
What did the assessment involve?
As part of the evidence collection process, we conducted interviews with key users and also ran an online questionnaire to understand how people use the statistics, what people use the statistics for, how satisfied people are with the statistics, and so on.
We also conducted our own research into the statistics and worked closely with DfE on specific aspects.
For this assessment, we looked at all Key Stage 4 performance statistics published at national and local authority level including information on the EBacc entry, KS4 attainment and disadvantage gaps.
We also looked at the school level KS4 data that are published on the Compare School Performance website.
What did we find?
Overall, we found widespread good practice in the production and dissemination of the KS4 statistics. DfE regularly engages with a wide range of users and uses their feedback to inform improvements to the statistics.
The statistics set a strong example of how data can be linked and shared to inform education policy and research
Users spoke highly of the impartial and informative commentary that accompanies the KS4 statistical release, as well as the quality of the statistics. The KS4 statistics set a strong example of how data can be linked and shared to inform education policy and research.
We also found that there were a few areas that DfE could implement improvements to the KS4 statistics in to ensure continued compliance with the code of practice for statistics:
- Improving the distinction between the KS4 accountability measures used by ministers to hold schools accountable and the wider KS4 statistics
- Ensuring that the impact of Covid is fully explained to users in the 2022 publication
- Engaging effectively with the widest possible audience and sharing plans for KS4 development with all users
In addition, the assessment also looked at how public confidence in DfE’s data governance procedures could be strengthened through continuing with existing plans to publish an update on Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) audit recommendations which relate to the code of practice for statistics.
What happens next?
DfE has committed to introducing improvements to the statistical bulletin on the impact on COVID-19 for the 2021/22 release and meeting the remaining requirements by the 2022/23 release. We will be working closely with them to support them in these changes.