Dear Neil

National Statistics Status of Statistics for England on Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics, and on Absence and Exclusions

We have reviewed the actions that you and your team have taken in response to our Assessment Report number 3321 on Statistics for England on Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics, and on Absence and Exclusions.

On behalf of the Board of the Statistics Authority, I am pleased to confirm the designation of these as National Statistics. This includes reinstating the National Statistics status of the statistics on unlawfully large infant class sizes which had their National Statistics status temporarily removed following concerns about their quality.

The assessment of these statistics raised two main areas of concern – the need for the Department for Education (DfE) to develop a greater understanding of the uses of the statistics and to increase transparency over its quality assurance arrangements.

Understanding the users and uses of these statistics is fundamental in ensuring that the best public value can be achieved from them. I am encouraged by the various ways that you have explored how to broaden the reach of these statistics and how you have used external expertise to help with this endeavour. My team will be interested in hearing how you continue with this work and what benefits can be realised.

I also welcome the improvements you have made to the information that you publish about quality assurance. Having reviewed the two new documents published I consider that users now have the appropriate information available to them. The content of the School census: data quality and processing gives the detail and judgements required, while the Quality assurance of Education Statistics gives users a clear and user friendly overview of DfE’s internal quality assurance arrangements. I consider that the improvement that the statistics team have made to the documentation of its quality assurance arrangements enhances the quality of the statistics and will benefit users.

Specifically relating to the statistics on unlawfully large infant classes, I am pleased to see that you have improved the guidance to aid data collection and to see how you have successfully tested this guidance with a range of people in the data supply chain.

We have included more detail about our judgement in an annex to this letter. I, or my team, would be very happy to talk you or colleagues through any aspects of this letter, the annex or Code compliance more generally.

National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value and is something to be celebrated. We invite you to include a statement alongside the statistics which reflects this status.

Please feel free to discuss any aspect of this with us at any time. I am copying this letter to John Pullinger, the National Statistician and Mike Jones, Deputy Head of Profession for Statistics, who
oversaw DfE’s response to the assessment.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson
Director General for Regulation