Officials win plaudits for statistical excellence

MHCLG, the Scottish Fiscal Commission, Ofsted and ONS teams lauded for work with data
Ofsted's 2020 Campion Award winners: Abbie Self, Rebecca Driffield, Muredach Diamond, Jeremy Honeywill, Beth Munns and Steve Ball

By Civil Service World

21 Oct 2020

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Scottish Fiscal Commission have been declared joint winners of a new award designed to recognise core values at the heart of the Code of Practice for Statistics. 

Launched by the Royal Statistical Society and the Office for Statistics Regulation, the Voluntary Application of the Code Award recognises the adoption of the three pillars of trustworthiness, quality and value in the production of statistics that are not classified as official statistics. This can be done by organisations both inside and outside the public sector.

MHCLG was this week declared joint winner of the inaugural award for its Building Safety Programme Monthly Data Release that started in December 2017, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The data provides the public, stakeholders and parliament with the latest figures on high-rise residential buildings with aluminium composite material cladding, an external covering that aided the spread of fire at Grenfell.

Accepting the award,  Paul Vickers, MHCLG's head of the building safety data and analysis, said it showed the efforts in in helping to ensure we never have another tragedy like Grenfell, in which 72 people died.

"Since then we have been collecting data on the materials on the outside of tall residential buildings to understand estimate the number of buildings with dangerous materials on them and help evidence the government response," he said. "We have endeavoured to present these statistics in a way that is objective and in line with the code of practice so that the public, media and politicians understand the size of the problem that government faces and the progress we are making in remediating these buildings.  Everyone who has worked on this publication since it started has worked hard to ensure we adhere as much as we can to the code of practice whilst recognising that this is management information to support operational activity in the remediation of high rise buildings."

The Scottish Fiscal Commission’s joint-winner status came in recognition of its highly-public commitment to voluntarily apply the code, which judges said had helped the non-ministerial office to develop an international reputation for independent and credible forecasting.

Silvia Palombi, a senior economic analyst from the SFC (pictured right accepting the award), said that she was delighted to accept this award on behalf of the team. "Our stakeholders and ultimately the public depend on the commission to uphold the highest standards of statistical practice as a matter of course. We’re grateful to the Royal Statistical Society and the Office for Statistics Regulation for the opportunity to have our work endorsed in this way.”  

  Award judges also gave UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service – “highly commended” status for its work in relation to the voluntary adoption of the code, part of which saw a head of profession for statistics nominated to consult on key organisational changes required.

Sander Kristel, UCAS's chief operating officer, said: “As a charity, we are committed to publishing more data and insights to inform the public discussion on higher education and its very gratifying for the team to have our work recognised through this commendation.”

RSS chief executive Stian Westlake said it was essential for statistics to be credible if they were to gain public trust.

“This award plays an important role in highlighting and commending those organisations that are voluntarily holding their statistics to a high benchmark,” he said. 

“We look forward to a wealth of great entries again next year, demonstrating the merits of the Voluntary Application process.”

Also announced yesterday on World Statistics Day was the 2020 Campion Award for Excellence in Official Statistics to a team from Ofsted – short for the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.

Named in honour of the late Sir Harry Campion, who was the first director of the Central Statistical Office in the 1940s, the award recognises good practice in UK official statistics and officials who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to meet user needs. Civil Service World is the media partner of both awards.

Ofted’s Schools Pre-inspection Data and Insight team won the award for its Inspection Data Summary (IDR), which provides statistically-driven insights to help guide conversations about inspection. 

Judges said they were particularly impressed by the improvement of methods, better use of data and the substantial reduction in costs that that the team’s entry showed following a “redevelopment” of the IDR repots last year. 

They added that the project was a “fantastic example of understanding user needs” that  had received positive feedback from school inspectors and had “tangible impact” on improving education outcomes.

Judges also gave “highly commended” runner-up status to the ONS Data Science Campus Faster Indicators Team for its work on delivering more timely and relevant shipping indicators. They said the project was “a powerful demonstration of government statisticians aiming to fill data gaps with the innovative use of a novel dataset”.

A special commendation went to the ONS Digital Content Team for its work to improve the impact of ONS analysis, through data visualisation, editorial and social media. Judges said the team’s work was a clear demonstration of a “positive culture change, with a concerted effort made to improve accessibility”.

UK Statistics Authority chair Sir David Norgrove said the Campion Award winners and runners up were “remarkable examples” of the best work taking place across the nation’s official statistics system.

“Ofsted’s work on the new inspection report is a pioneering use of existing pupil-level data, allowing school inspectors to focus on outcomes for pupils in a way not previously possible,” he said.

“The faster economic indicators from the ONS have made creative use of new data sources, giving a timeliness to our view of the economy which will be invaluable to policymakers in the winter ahead.”

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