DfE team wins statistics prize for pupil-attendance data system

Fable Data picks up accolade for statistical excellence in trustworthiness, quality and value
The winning DfE team. Photo: Royal Statistical Society

By Jim Dunton

07 Jul 2023

A team from the Department for Education has won this year’s Campion Award for Excellence in Official Statistics – named in honour of Sir Harry Campion, the first director of the Central Statistical Office, which was the forerunner to the Office for National Statistics.

DfE’s school census team picked up the accolade at the Royal Statistical Society’s annual Statistical Excellence Awards.

The award recognises the team’s proactive response to the need for better data on school attendance, and related safeguarding issues, which gained prominence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Judges of the Campion Award – presented in partnership with the UK Statistics Authority and Civil Service World – said the DfE team had delivered a system to collect daily pupil-level attendance from schools within six months. Fortnightly official statistics have been published using the system since September, allowing policymakers to identify trends more easily and respond quickly to issues that arise.

Judges said the DfE project was an example of agile, useful data provision and an exemplar for others to follow. They were also impressed with the efforts made to ensure transparency so the findings could be communicated to a broad audience, as well as the use of new administrative data.

The ONS 2021 Census Outputs & Dissemination Team and ONS Digital Publishing Team were highly commended for their work to produce a range of products designed to ensure census results were accessible to different audiences.

Campion Award committee chair Dev Virdee said the DfE and ONS teams had displayed exemplary characteristics.

“Our winning entry is an excellent example of the use of data to respond to a serious societal issue and policymaker needs,” he said.

“Our highly commended entry is a real showcase of government statisticians going above and beyond in their commitment to meeting user needs. Both teams are to be congratulated for their commitment to good practice.”

Thursday night’s RSS Awards saw Fable Data receive the Award for Statistical Excellence in Trustworthiness, Quality and Value, which is also presented in partnership with Civil Service World.

Fable sources anonymous consumer and SME spending data from banks for use in commercial and policy research. It was given the award in recognition of its Data for Good programme, which encourages new opportunities for combining and extrapolating economic insights for key institutions.

HM Treasury and the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are among the government departments to have used data provided by Fable to get greater insight on economic activity, in combination with official statistics.

The award is designed to salute voluntary application of the “pillars” of trustworthiness, quality and value at the heart of the Office for Statistics Regulation’s Code of Practice for Statistics.

OSR director general for regulation Ed Humpherson said: “Fable Data is a brilliant winner and used the Data for Good programme to provide their most granular dataset on a pro-bono basis to government bodies, academics and national statistical producers, helping to facilitate effective policymaking, enable innovative research, and assist the next generation of economic indicators.”

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