UK Statistics Authority statement on school funding information in Labour and Conservative manifestos

Statistics on school funding have been a contested area over the past year and in the current general election campaign. Two party manifestos have repeated earlier claims on which the UK Statistics Authority has already commented.

The Labour Party manifesto states that “83% of schools [are] still facing cuts next year.” When the UK Statistics Authority considered an earlier version of this claim by the National Education Union we found a number of issues with its presentation. Most significantly, the calculation is a comparison between 2015/16 and 2020/21. It does not refer specifically to changes due to occur next year. Following discussion with the Office for Statistics Regulation in January, the Union made changes to their School Cuts website to explain the methodology. Without this context, the headline statement is likely to give an unclear impression of future changes in school budgets.

The Conservative Party manifesto refers to past announcements of increased funding for schools in England. The section about investing in schools includes the statement that there will be “an extra £14 billion funding for schools”.  In October 2019, the Office for Statistics Regulation pointed out in a statement that this figure is calculated by adding together and then rounding increases across three years. The figure is not adjusted for inflation and represents the total increase in expenditure in cash terms across these years. In October, we therefore emphasised the need for clarity on what the figures represent. The manifesto fails to provide this clarity. The manifesto introduction mentions a time frame when referring to this increase, however when explaining changes in school funding dates or baselines are not given. The manifesto also translates the figure into a per week basis. The basis for the per week calculation is unclear.

Following the Office for Statistics Regulation’s previous work in this area, the Authority is encouraged by the Department for Education’s announcement that it will be publishing new summary statistics on school funding in January 2020.

 

Notes to editors

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. OSR provides independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

For more information please contact the Authority press office on 07810 657 788 or the OSR press office on 020 7592 8659.

UK Statistics Authority statement on Scottish Government’s use of the Labour Force Survey

Concerns have been raised with the Authority about the Scottish Government’s choice to highlight Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates of the youth unemployment rate, rather than the more reliable Annual Population Survey (APS) estimates, in its recent Labour Market Key Findings report.

Data from the LFS at this level of detail are not considered reliable, and are not classed as National Statistics. The APS is the more reliable data source for estimates of youth unemployment, due to its larger sample size, particularly when considering a breakdown by age and country within the UK. It would be helpful to make this clear both in the summary published by the Scottish Government and any related use of the estimates, including on social media.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to working with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to improve the presentation of youth unemployment rates in Scotland, and its wish to consider whether it is appropriate to continue publishing estimates based on the LFS.

 

Notes to editors:

Official statistics assessed as fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Statistics are given National Statistics status. The National Statistics designation indicates that the statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value .

The Scottish Government’s Labour Market Key Findings report is available here.

The ONS Regional Statistics release, which Scottish Government drew from in their report, can be found here. The APS data used can be found here along with the LFS official statistics data used here.

In this report, youth unemployment refers to those aged 16 to 24.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. We provide independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

For more information please contact the Authority press office on 07810 657 788 or the OSR press office on 020 7592 8659.

OSR statement on EU settlement scheme statistics

The Home Office produce data and statistics on the EU settlement scheme – the application scheme, launched on 30 March 2019, for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.  These statistics are released as experimental statistics meaning they are going through development and evaluation.

The Home Office is continuing to work to improve these statistics to ensure they meet the needs of users. At present, the statistics focus on the number of applications. This will differ from the number of applicants as the process may require repeat applications for an individual to be granted ‘settled status’. The Home Office is aware of the need to provide statistics not only on the number of applications to the scheme but also on the number of individual applicants.

Statistics are vital to support public debate and evaluation of government policies and programmes. Statistical producers must understand and respond to the key questions being asked in a topic area and seek to produce statistics that are at their most valuable to support this need for data and statistics.

As experimental statistics are developed, openly encouraging user feedback and fully considering the value of the statistics is essential. Providing users with information on development plans and timescales will help maintain user confidence throughout the process.

OSR statement on school funding announcements

It is vital that data and information on school funding published by the Department for Education are presented clearly and not open to misinterpretation. In light of enquiries we have received around the Department’s recent funding announcement “Prime Minister boosts schools with £14 billion package” we are setting out our view. This follows our previous letter to the Department on its education funding statistics.

We recognise that the Department’s statement is supported with appropriate context. The £14 billion is a cumulative figure in cash terms over three years of funding to 2022/23, compared to 2019/20 funding levels. The £14 billion figure is calculated by adding together and then rounding increases of £2.6 billion in 2020/21, £4.8 billion in 2021/21, and £7.1 billion in 2022/23. It is not adjusted for inflation and represents the total increase in expenditure in cash terms across these years.  It does not mean that the annual budget in any year will increase by £14 billion.

We are satisfied that the publicly available material contains this context and that what the figures represent is reasonably explained.

There is however a risk that the figures could mislead: for example, people who read no further might expect that the headline figure of £14 billion refers to an annual increase.

We therefore encourage the Department and Ministers to continue to provide appropriate context when making statements on school funding.

We will be undertaking further work with a view to publishing our expectations more broadly on best practice in describing public spending.

 

Notes to Editors

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. We provide independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

For more information please contact 020 7592 8659 or 020 3741 1742, by email, or visit the OSR website.

OSR statement on fraud statistics

There are two main statistical sources which report on fraud: police recorded crime and the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is clear that the CSEW provides the best indication of the volume of fraud offences experienced by individuals. Most of these offences do not come to the attention of the police and as a result police recorded crime gives a limited picture of fraud. Police recorded crime figures include fraud offences recorded by Action Fraud. The CSEW, as a household survey, records crimes experienced by individuals. The Times article published this week, illustrates the complexities of fraud and recording it as a crime.

The ONS quarterly crime statistics bulletin for England and Wales section nine, highlights the various sources and their strengths and limitations. The bulletin clearly sets out key differences and provides insight on which source provides the better measure for each situation. It includes reference to data collected by UK Finance which gives a fuller picture of card and bank account fraud. It is clear in this publication that the best indication on the number of fraudulent offences committed against individuals, such as those highlighted in the article, is provided within the CSEW.

In 2014, the UK Statistics Authority removed the National Statistics designation from police recorded crime statistics to signal to users their limitations in terms of quality. The CSEW remains a National Statistic. Concerns about the administrative recording of fraud highlighted by the article are consistent with these judgements about National Statistics status.

UK Statistics Authority Safeguards Statistics

The UK Statistics Authority has today published its Annual Review of Casework.

Making public statements about the dissemination and use of statistics has been an important part of the Authority’s work since it began. In this work, the Authority is guided by its statutory objective to promote and safeguard official statistics.

The Office for Statistics Regulation investigates all cases reported to the Authority by members of the public, politicians, the media and third sector-organisations, as well as issues we identify ourselves.

This year’s annual review finds:

  • Although the number of cases investigated by the Authority has risen, there have been fewer cases in which we have identified a clear misuse of statistics;
  • Across some themes, including economic statistics, we are seeing fewer concerns raised about statistics production, suggesting improving trust in official data;
  • There continues to be concern about the production of health and social care statistics; and
  • Over the course of the year we have seen an emergence in concerns raised regarding education funding data.

Commenting on the publication of this annual review Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, said:

“This year the public, politicians and the media all played their part in raising cases with the UK Statistics Authority about the use and dissemination of statistics. But what we have found – and this may surprise some – is that the blatant misuse of statistics among politicians and members of the media is really quite rare.

“Of course we are looking carefully at those instances in which concerns persist. Reflecting on our casework, as well as our wider knowledge, the UK Statistics Authority will continue to think carefully about how it can improve the UK’s evidence base, including in important areas such as health and social care, and education funding.”

Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation, added:

“Casework is an extremely important element of our daily regulatory business and this report highlights the key issues we have identified proactively and reactively to independently stand up for statistics as a public asset. The Office for Statistics Regulation remains dedicated to enhancing public confidence in the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics as set out by the Code of Practice, celebrating when the standards are upheld and challenging publicly when they are not.”

 

See also:

Annual Review of Authority Casework, 2017 to 2018

UK Statistics Authority Statement on the future of the RPI

The Advisory Panel on Consumer Prices provided advice to the National Statistician on the composition of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) in light of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report Measuring Inflation, published in January 2019.

Taking account of that advice, the then National Statistician concluded that the current position was unsatisfactory and put options for the future of the RPI to the UK Statistics Authority Board on 26 February 2019.

After receiving this advice, Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote on behalf of the Board to the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer on 4 March 2019 with the following recommendations:

  • that the publication of the RPI be stopped at a point in future; and
  • in the interim, the shortcomings of the RPI should be addressed by bringing the methods of the CPIH into it.

Today the Chancellor has announced his intention to consult on whether to bring the methods in CPIH into RPI between 2025 and 2030, effectively aligning the measures. The UK Statistics Authority will consult on the method of making this change.

Speaking today, Sir David said:

“The role of the UK Statistics Authority is to promote and safeguard official statistics.

“We have been clear that the RPI is not a good measure, at times significantly overestimating inflation and at other times underestimating it, and have consistently urged all – in Government and the private sector – to stop using it. However, the RPI is unique as we need consent from the Chancellor to make certain changes, such as the one we have proposed.

“Although we regret that no change will occur before 2025, we welcome the Chancellor’s intention to consult on resolving current issues with the RPI.

“We continue to urge the Government and others to cease to use the RPI. It would be wrong for the Government to continue to use a measure of inflation which it itself accepts is flawed, where it has the opportunity to change.”


 

Notes to Editors

  1. Under Section 21 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, before making any change to the coverage or the basic calculation of the RPI, the UK Statistics Authority must consult the Bank of England. Where proposed changes to the RPI are deemed material and detrimental to relevant gilt holders by the Bank of England, changes cannot be made without the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  2. Under Section 21, Sir David Norgrove wrote to the Governor of the Bank of England on 18 February and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 4 March, proposing:
    1. that the publication of the RPI be stopped at a point in future; and
    2. in the interim, that shortcomings of the RPI be addressed, by bringing the methods of the CPIH into the index.
  3. His letters drew both on the formal advice of the UK’s National Statistician, and on the advice of the National Statistician’s Advisory Panel on Consumer Prices.
  4. The Bank of England responded on 4 March to confirm changes proposed were material and detrimental to holders of relevant gilts.
  5. Following the appointment of a new Chancellor, Sir David Norgrove wrote to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP on 30 July 2019, highlighting the importance of the issue and the need to resolve at the earliest practical occasion.
  6. The Chancellor responded to the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals on 4 September 2019. In his response, the Chancellor announced his intention to consult on the timing of when to bring the methods in CPIH into RPI, effectively aligning the measures, to give users time to prepare for the many complex effects such a change will have.
  7. Sir David has responded to the Chancellor welcoming the intention to consult, while expressing regret that no change will occur before 2025.  He has also urged users to cease using the RPI.
  8. In 2030 the requirement for the Authority to consult the Chancellor before making changes to the coverage or calculation of the RPI falls away.
  9. While the current Authority Board cannot commit its successors, the statistical weaknesses of the RPI make it unlikely that the Authority would take a different view from our recommendations in 2030
  10. The Authority has also published its response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

 

 

OSR Statement on the Trustworthiness, Quality and Value of Long-Term International Migration Estimates

Today, Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation, confirmed that the UK Statistics Authority has concluded that the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report (MSQR) should not be designated National Statistics. Ed Humpherson has written to Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician, in advance of tomorrow’s MSQR, following a letter from Iain Bell requesting Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) support for reclassification of MSQR to experimental statistics.

OSR, on behalf of the Authority, appreciate ONS’s openness and transparency about the limitations of long-term international migration estimates and the efforts that have been made to improve them. ONS has set out a compelling case for the greater insight provided by drawing on multiple sources of data for long-term international migration estimates, whilst highlighting significant remaining uncertainty, particularly for post-2016 estimates.

Ed Humpherson, Office for Statistics Regulation said: “Following the work undertaken to improve long-term migration estimates we conclude that the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report should no longer be designated National Statistics, and support ONS’s proposal for the next MSQR to be classified as experimental statistics.”

He continued: “It remains critical for decision makers, including politicians, businesses and the public to have robust and reliable migration estimates. I urge ONS and other government departments involved in the population and migration transformation programme to hasten progress and prioritise this development work to improve estimates, whether through data sharing, collaborative research work, or other sharing of expertise and resource.”

 

Notes to Editors

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. We provide independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

For more information please contact 020 7592 8659 or 020 3741 1742, by email, or visit the OSR website.

 

Related Links:

Letter – Ed Humpherson to Iain Bell (August 2019)

Letter – Iain Bell to Ed Humpherson (August 2019)

Statement – Office for National Statistics

Quality and Value of International Migration Statistics – Statement from the Office for Statistics Regulation

The availability of the highest quality international migration estimates to support effective decision making is crucial. The Office for Statistics Regulation has continued to monitor the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS’s) progress as it works with others to improve migration statistics.

On 21 June, ONS published an update on its population and migration statistics transformation programme and the initial progress report on understanding different migration data sources. We welcome this update for users including the ambitions to be more responsive to user needs and provide more coherent statistics.

The work to improve migration statistics supports understanding of the quality and limitations of existing estimates of migration, as well as information on population by country of birth and labour market status by country of birth.

We note the progress report which begins to explore differences in estimates of EU and non-EU migration between the International Passenger Survey (IPS) and the Annual Population Survey (APS). The APS can be used to estimate the total number of people in the household population by country of birth (the “stock” of migrants), looking at changes over time in the stock provides another way of exploring changes in migration. The ONS Long-Term International Migration (LTIM) estimate (based largely on the IPS, an intentions-based survey) aims to measure the number of migrants entering and leaving the country in any given period (the “flow” of migrants) which can also be used to provide an estimate of net migration.

ONS analysis shows that between 2005 and 2018, the change in the APS “stock” gives a much higher estimate of migration from the EU than the LTIM net migration estimate of “flow” from the EU over the same period (2.1 million versus 1.4 million). However, by contrast, for non-EU migrants the change in the APS “stock” is lower than LTIM net migration estimate of “flow” (2.0 million versus 2.8 million). The scale of difference between the two sources varies by country of origin.

The report highlights that definitional differences between the sources contribute to the divergent patterns, but it is unlikely these differences are significant enough to provide the full explanation.

This research, while still in the early stages, raises concerns about the EU and non-EU splits across the different sources. ONS is undertaking further work to inform its understanding of the quality of these different estimates and plans a further update on this in August. We await ONS’s further work to clarify whether these differences have any relationship to other IPS measurement issues. ONS has separately identified an arrivals/departures imbalance for Chinese visitors, where ONS believes that it is under-reporting Chinese visitors’ departures in its IPS-based, overseas travel and tourism statistics.

We welcome ONS’s plans to provide an update to users in August and hope ONS will continue to work with urgency to resolve the considerable uncertainties around these estimates. We consider that ONS must:

  • complete its research into the differences between the migration estimates derived from the IPS and APS without delay;
  • be transparent and open regarding the outcomes of this research, and continue to inform users about the extent of any quality issues as it becomes aware of them; and
  • continue to clearly signpost quality issues within future statistical publications, providing guidance for users on appropriate interpretation.

UK Statistics Authority – PACAC Report Response

Responding to the publication of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) report “Governance of official statistics: redefining the dual role of the UK Statistics Authority; and re-evaluating the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007” an Authority spokesperson said:

“The UK Statistics Authority was established as an independent body and we take very seriously our responsibility to promote and safeguard official statistics. We are pleased that the committee acknowledged the significant improvements we have made to build and maintain trust in official statistics, our unique role and the day to day challenges we face in our work.

“The Authority is reading the Committee’s report with interest. Today’s report contains a number of substantial and detailed recommendations which will require consideration from the Authority’s Board, the Office for Statistics Regulation, and the soon to be appointed National Statistician.

“We will respond to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in full in due course.”

 

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