UK Statistics Authority Board minutes – 26 November 2020

Agenda

1Presentation from Chief Executive and Registrar General for Northern Ireland Statistics and Research AgencyMs Siobhan Carey
2Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings
Declarations of interest
Meeting of 29 October 2020
3Report from the Authority ChairOral report - Sir David Norgrove
4Report from the Chief ExecutiveSA(20)68 - Prof. Sir Ian Diamond
5Strategic Business Plan updateSA(20)69 - Mr Nick Bateson
6Report from the Director-General for RegulationSA(20)70 - Mr Ed Humpherson
7Report from Committee Chair
Audit and Risk Assurance Committee
Oral report - Ms Nora Nanayakkara
8Strategic ReviewSA(20)71 - Mr Nick Bateson
9COVID-19 Infection Survey and Surveillance StudiesSA(20)72 -Ms Emma Rourke Mr Iain Bell
12.50-13.00Break 10 mins
10EU TransitionSA(20)73 - Mr Will Laffan
11Interventions PolicySA(20)74 - Ms Mary Gregory Mr Ed Humpherson
12Integrated Data ProgrammeSA(20)75 - Ms Alison Pritchard
13Census and Data Collection Transformation ProgrammeSA(20)76 - Mr Iain Bell
Ms Nicola Tyson-Payne
14Any Other Business

Minutes – Thursday 26 November 2020

Present:

  • Sir David Norgrove (Chair)
  • Ms Sian Jones (Deputy Chair)
  • Ms Sam Beckett
  • Ms Helen Boaden
  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond
  • Mr Richard Dobbs
  • Professor David Hand
  • Professor Jonathan Haskel
  • Mr Ed Humpherson
  • Ms Nora Nanayakkara
  • Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter

Also in attendance:

  • Mr Jonathan Athow
  • Mr Nick Bateson
  • Mr Iain Bell
  • Mr Owen Brace
  • Mr Robert Bumpstead
  • Mr Douglas Cameron (Secretariat)
  • Mr Duane Carey (for item 6)
  • Mr Raf Cobb (for item 6)
  • Mr Phillip Davies (for item 6)
  • Ms Sarah Fisher (for item 6)
  • Ms Steffi Gijji (for item 6)
  • Ms Megan Green (for item 6)
  • Ms Mary Gregory (for item 12)
  • Ms Sally-Ann Jones (Secretariat)
  • Mr Will Laffan (for item 11)
  • Ms Zoe Moore (for item 6)
  • Ms Alison Pritchard
  • Ms Emma Rourke (for item 10)
  • Ms Palvi Shah (for item 6)
  • Mr Bill South (for item 6)
  • Ms Ruth Studley (for item 6)
  • Mr James Tierney (for item 6)
  • Ms Nicola Tyson-Payne (for item 14)
  • Ms Amy Williams (Secretariat)

Apologies

  • Professor Anne Trefethen

1. Presentation from the Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency (NISRI)
1.1 Sir David welcomed Ms Siobhan Carey, (Chief Executive and Registrar General, NISRA) and Mr Chris Ganley to the meeting.
1.2 The Board heard about the priorities and challenges facing NISRA, including the work on EU Exit analyses and with ONS on the 2021 Census.
1.3 The Board and Sir Ian noted their thanks to Ms Carey and Mr Ganley for an excellent presentation.
2. Apologies
2.1 Apologies were received from Professor Anne Trefethen.
3. Declarations of interest
3.1 Mr Dobbs had noted a conflict of interest regarding the COVID-19 Infection Survey agenda item in advance of the meeting.
4. Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings
4.1 The minutes of the previous meeting held on 29 October 2020 were agreed.
5. Report from the Authority Chair
5.1 Non-executive directors had met prior to the Board. They had discussed statistical quality and legacy transformation.
5.2 The Chair reported on his recent activity since the Board last met:
i. Sir David had discussed the transparency and communication of data related to COVID-19 with Prof. Chris Whitty, ahead of Mr Humpherson’ s letter to Prof. Whitty on 5 November;
ii. Sir David had met Mr Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England on 9
November;
iii. Sir David alongside Sir Ian had met Welsh Government Officials on 10 November to discuss the Authority strategy; and
iv. on 25 November Sir David and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had responded to the joint consultation on reforming the methodology of the Retail Prices Index (RPI).
The Chancellor had acknowledged the statistical case for the Authority’s proposed changes to the RPI, but was unable to offer his consent to the implementation before 2030. It was noted that it is the Authority’s policy to address the shortcomings of the RPI in full at the earliest practical time. The change proposed could legally and practically be made by the Authority in February 2030.
5.3 Sir David Spiegelhalter reported on his attendance, in a personal capacity, at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Data Transparency and Accountability: COVID-19 Inquiry on 24 November. Both Prof. David Hand and Prof. Trefethen had e-visited the Data Science Campus on 11 November, and agreed the content of the report that Prof Hand presented.
6. Report from the Chief Executive [SA(20)68]
6.1 Sir Ian provided the Board with an overview of activity and issues for November, highlighting the following:
i. the ONS-Health Data Research UK partnership continued to make good progress on the COVID-19 National Core Studies Programme. It was enabling the UK to use health data and research to inform decision making, as well as accelerating progress to establish a health data and research infrastructure for the future;
ii. with regard to improving access to health data the ONS continued to hold meetings with NHS Digital;
iii. the developments to migration statistics using alternative data sources;
iv. the forthcoming Lancet Public Health paper in relation to the COVID-19 Infection Survey; and
v. the recently published report by the Economic Centre of Excellence on the Public Understanding of Economics and Economic Statistics.
6.2 At this point the following members of the cross-directorate CIS team joined the meeting: Ms Ruth Studley, Ms Palvi Shah, Mr Raf Cobb, Ms Steffi Gijji, Ms Megan Green, Mr James Tierney, Ms Sarah Fisher, Mr Bill South, Ms Zoe Moore, Mr Phillip Davies and Mr Duane Carey. Sir Ian reported on the significant achievement by the team on CIS statistics to support and inform decision making. Sir David commended all those involved for working ‘above and beyond’ to produce the data, noting that the
Board was ‘proud’ of the achievement and all those involved.
7. Report from the Director General for Regulation [SA(20)70]
7.1 Mr Humpherson provided an update on regulation activity since the last meeting. Mr Humpherson reported progress of OSR’s review of the approach to developing statistical models designed for awarding 2020 exam results. A further discussion was scheduled for Regulation Committee with the aim of publishing the report in the New Year.
8. Report from the Chair of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee
8.1 Ms Nanayakkara reported on the work of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, which had met on 12 November 2020.
8.2 Committee members had considered:
i. the current financial position;
ii. the proposed approach to the organisation’s response to the Spending Review;
iii. the developing risk and assurance framework for the CIS;
iv. the progress by the Commercial Service team regarding contract management; and
v. progress on the work around statistical quality with oversight by the Quality Committee;
8.3 Ms Nanayakkara noted that progress had been made to develop and embed the risk management framework across the organisation. The Committee had been assured by the recent report on the Operational Readiness of the Census, which concluded that the successful delivery of the Census collection was feasible.
9. Census and Data Collection Transformation Programme [SA(20)76]
9.1 Mr Bell and Ms Tyson-Payne introduced a paper which provided an update on the programme with a focus on the Operational Readiness for the Census and questionnaire guidance.
9.2 Mr Bell reported that the judgement on the judicial review had found that the decision not to include a Sikh tick box under the ethnicity question in the 2021 Census was lawful. Progress was being made to finalise the guidance for the sex question, with the methodology to be considered by the Methodology and Assurance Panel. As noted already in meeting the recent Operational Readiness Review had concluded the successful delivery of the Census collection was feasible, with the team effectively managing the challenges going forward. The digital build and testing were on track and the acquisition of administrative data remained a key focus.
9.3 The Board welcomed the update and noted the progress made.
10. COVID-19 Infection Survey and Surveillance Studies [SA(20)72]
10.1 Ms Rourke and Mr Bell introduced a paper which provided an update on the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) programme and wider surveillance studies.
10.2 Mr Bell highlighted the continued successful delivery and impact of the CIS. The School Surveillance Study had been launched. As noted earlier in the meeting, the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee had received an update on the developing risk framework. The management of complaints had improved with a reduction in the overall escalation of concerns.
10.3 The Board heard about the range of work on surveillance studies and ONS’s role in analysing data from the CIS and the Opinions and Lifestyle survey. The ONS was leading on the work regarding the coherence of health statistics with the Devolved Administrations and the English Health Statistics Steering Group.
10.4 Board members discussed the longer-term strategic development of the CIS and the opportunities to adapt the model to meet a broader range of needs.
11. EU Transition [SA(20)73]
11.1 Mr Laffan introduced a paper which provided a further update on the work of the Authority’s EU Exit Programme, following on from papers provided to the Board in September and October.
11.2 Mr Laffan informed the meeting of the developments and preparations for the end of the end of the transition period. A phased approach had been developed to establish the domestic advisory functions to support the UK’s framework for economic statistics. A review of the new arrangements would be included in OSR’s work programme. It was noted that these arrangements could not be finalised until the broader UK-EU relationship was clear.
11.3 With regard to statistics and analysis the Board heard that ONS was working collaboratively with other departments to ensure government had the latest data and analysis following the EU transition.
11.4 The Board endorsed the plans in place following the EU transition.
12. Interventions Policy [SA(20)74]
12.1 Ms Gregory and Mr Humpherson introduced a paper which provided a summary of the changes to the Authority Interventions Policy and plans for publication.
12.2 Board members discussed the scope, impact and users of the policy. The Board agreed that the draft policy could be published for comment in December.
13. Integrated Data Programme [SA(20)75]
13.1 Ms Pritchard introduced a paper which provided an update on progress and structure of the Integrated Data Programme (IDP).
13.2 Board members heard about the vision and purpose of the IDP. Plans were in place to develop the full business case by March 2021. A review by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority would be undertaken in the New Year.
13.3 The Board noted the update.
14. Strategic Review [SA(20)71]
14.1 Mr Bateson introduced a paper which set out the approach to Spending Review (SR). A phased approach would be undertaken for a rapid strategic review of the organisation in the context of the SR settlement. The phased approach had been agreed by the National Statistics Executive Group, and an update had been provided at the recent Audit and Risk Assurance Committee meeting.
14.2 Board members noted the approach to the strategic review and would remain engaged as the work progressed.
15. Strategic Business Plan update [SA(20)69]
15.1 Mr Bateson introduced a paper which provided an update on the delivery of the business plan at 31 October 2020.
15.2 The Board noted the report, which was discussed as part of the previous item.
16. Any other business
16.1 The Authority Board would meet next on 15 December by videoconference.

Breach Report – Ofqual – Access arrangements for GCSE, AS and A Level: 2019 to 2020 academic year

Information neededResponse
Title and link to statistical outputAccess arrangements for GCSE, AS and A Level: 2019 to 2020 academic year
Name of producer organisationOfqual
Name and contact details of person
dealing with report
Ben Cuff – ben.cuff@ofqual.gov.uk
Name and contact details of Head of
Profession for Statistics or Lead
Official
Vikas Dhawan – vikas.dhawan@ofqual.gov.uk
Link to published statement about the
breach (if relevant)
Date of breach report16/12/2020

Information neededResponse
Relevant principle(s) and practice(s)Pre-release
Date of occurrence of breach16/12/2020

Impact of the breach

Provide details of the impact of the breach both inside the producer body and externally:

The pre-release was sent out this morning 9.30am. An approved pre-release recipient from the Department for Education (DfE) informed us in the afternoon that they had mistakenly sent a summary of main trends to an individual at DfE who was not on the pre-release list (along with a few others who were on the pre-release access list).

We were also informed that the individual who should not have received the summary have confirmed that they have deleted the email.

Because this person was notified and deleted the email soon after receiving it, and because only a summary of main trends was sent, there should be minimal negative impact of the breach.

Corrective actions (taken or planned) to prevent re-occurrence

Describe the short-term actions made to redress the situation and the longer-term changes to procedures:

The person who mistakenly sent the summary has been reminded of the need to maintain confidentiality as per the pre-release conditions in the future. We will also look to strengthen the text that we send out as part of the pre-release process.

 

UK Statistics Authority Board minutes 29 October 2020

  1. Apologies
  2. Declarations of interest
  3. Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings
  4. Report from the Authority Chair
  5. Report from the Chief Executive
  6. Strategy and Business Plan update
  7. Report from the Director General for Regulation
  8. Report from the Chair of the Regulation Committee
  9. COVID-19 Infection Survey
  10. Census and Data Collection Transformation Programme
  11. People plan and Inclusivity
  12. RPI
  13. EU Transition
  14. Any other business

The Authority Board would meet next on 26 November by videoconference

UK Statistics Authority Board minutes 29 September 2020

  1. Presentation from Scottish Chief Statistician, Roger Halliday
  2. Apologies
  3. Declarations of interest
  4. Minutes and matters arising from previous meetings
  5. Report from the Authority Chair
  6. Report from the Director General for Regulation
  7. Report from the Chief Executive
  8. Report from the Chair of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee
  9. Strategic Business Plan update
  10. RPI
  11. EU Exit – Economic Statistics
  12. Integrated Data Platform
  13. Inclusive Data Taskforce
  14. Census and Data Collection Transformation Programme (CDCTP)
  15. Any other business

The Authority Board would meet next on 29 October by videoconference.

Breach Report – Office for Students – Developing an understanding of ‘start to success’ outcomes

Information neededResponse
Title and link to statistical output“Developing an understanding of ‘start to success’ outcomes"
Name of producer organisationOffice for Students (OfS)
Name and contact details of person
dealing with report
Alison Brunt (alison.brunt@officeforstudents.org.uk, 0117 931 7166)
Name and contact details of Head of
Profession for Statistics or Lead
Official
Mark Gittoes
(mark.gittoes@officeforstudents.org.uk, 0117 931 7052)
Link to published statement about the
breach (if relevant)
Date of breach report16/11/2020

Information neededResponse
Relevant principle(s) and practice(s)Trustworthiness: T3.4 - The circulation of statistics in their final form ahead of their publication should
be restricted to eligible recipients, in line with the rules and principles on pre-release access set out in legislation for the UK and devolved
administrations. No indication of the statistics should be made public and the statistics should not
be given to any other party without prior permission for access.
Date of occurrence of breach08/11/2020

Please give an account of what happened including roles of persons involved, dates and times:

The Office for Students (OfS) have recently introduced a new experimental statistic that looks at employment rates for students in higher education. This publication includes data on these rates at subject-level (i.e. based on the subject of the degree the student undertook), provider-level, and provider by subject level. The outputs have been published in anonymised form as experimental ‘ad hoc’ statistics.

Upon constructing these statistics, it had been the intention that the publication would include provider names alongside the corresponding provider-level and provider by subject level statistics. Because the publication intent involved information about the performance of individual higher education providers, as a public authority, the OfS considers that it has a duty of confidence to commercial entities such that providers are given an opportunity to make representations to the OfS before we make a final decision about whether to publish information which risks adversely impacting on their organisation. Representations were invited ahead of the publication of these new performance statistics, where providers were able to make representations in terms of both the accuracy of the proposed content and format of publication.

The statistics were shared on 26 October 2020 under strict conditions making clear to the provider the reasons for pre-publication sharing, and stating that the information must not be shared more widely.

In some cases, providers will take advice on methodology and principles with other organisations before making their representations to us. Providers are aware that they should not share any statistics or indicate direction of travel of the statistics to anyone else, and that they may only discuss methodology and principles.

On this occasion, one of the sector-representative organisations, with whom providers have consulted for the purposes of securing advice, has seen fit to submit their own response to the OfS about the proposed publication. In contacting us with their feedback, it came to light that one of the providers who had sought the advice of that organisation had shared one of the statistics with them (the employment rate for nursing) on 8 November 2020 prior to the deadline for representations and prior to publication. The identity of the provider who shared the statistic with the sector representative organisation in question has not been disclosed to the OfS.

Impact of the breach

Provide details of the impact of the breach both inside the producer body and externally:

Having explored the breach with the organisation, the OfS has learned that the statistic was shared within a broader commentary from a provider on a particular argument, and we are assured that the breach did not contain the fuller set of statistics in their proposed publication format. One of the purposes of publishing these rates as experimental statistics is to encourage an open debate among providers, students and other stakeholders about the method, thereby facilitating a transparent and collaborative approach to their further development. A research report published alongside the statistics intends to highlight the limitations and advantages of our proposed method, as well as next steps in its development.

Having decided to go ahead with publication, following the representations process the OfS implemented a number of refinements to the statistics (including the anonymisation of the providers within them) to address issues and further limitations that had been identified through the representations process. This means that the statistic that was shared was not one in its final form and so the impact of the breach is reduced.

Had this not been the case, it is possible that the affected organisation would have been in a privileged position to respond to the publication more quickly than other commentators. In light of the stated aims of this publication to encourage debate, whether this consequence would have impacted in a negative or positive way would depend on how this particular organisation has perceived the wider publication and research report. If it were negative, an early and detrimental commentary entering the public domain might have set an unhelpful initial tone for that debate.

Corrective actions (taken or planned) to prevent re-occurrence

Describe the short-term actions made to redress the situation and the longer-term changes to procedures:

As an immediate response, the OfS contacted the organisation involved to clarify the breach and why this should not have occurred, in order to raise awareness of the Code of Practice protocols and avoid future reoccurrence.

We will consider the need for further strengthening of the instructions given to providers about access to statistics in advance of publication, especially in relation to new or novel statistics on which we might reasonably expect a provider to seek advice on methodology and principles from other organisations.

Alerting providers to this breach as an example of a failure to adhere to the protocols, by referencing it within these instructions in future, may be helpful to improve understanding of activities that are and are not permitted.

The range of statistical outputs that the OfS produces can require a range of pre-publication approaches, and there are a limited set of circumstances in which we consider it is appropriate to share statistics in advance of their publication. We will continue to determine and adapt the prepublication approach on the merits of each case. In cases where the pre-publication approach involves sharing the statistics, it nonetheless remains possible – as in this case with these experimental statistics – that our publication intentions will evolve thereafter. We will remain open to adapting our course of action in response to any legitimate considerations identified between constructing and publishing statistics.