Response from Sir David Norgrove to Kirsty Williams, Education Minister, on school expenditure

Dear Ms Williams,

Thank you for your update on the meeting between the Welsh Government’s Chief Statistician and NASUWT officials.

Comparisons of school expenditure between England and Wales are complicated. That makes it the more important that, as with all figures used within public debate, the figures should be transparent and the sources verifiable.

Following the meeting between the Chief Statistician and NASUWT officials, we have been made aware that the NASUWT are producing new improved analysis. We would encourage NASUWT to base its revised analysis on the principles set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics.

In the absence of Welsh and English official statistics prepared on the same basis, we agree with your officials that the analysis carried out by the IFS currently provides the most robust comparison. Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation has written to the Chief Statistician on this matter today and I enclose a copy of his letter.

I am copying this letter to the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Suzy Davies AM.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

Related links:

Letter from Sir David Norgrove to Kirsty Williams AM

Letter from Kirsty Williams AM to Sir David Norgrove

Letter from Sir David Norgrove to Kirsty Williams AM

Response on use of statistics on school expenditure in Wales

Dear Ms Williams,

Thank you for your letter of 6 December about comparisons by the Welsh Conservatives of school funding in England and Wales.

I am pleased to hear that your officials are in discussions with NASUWT, the source of the estimates in question. The different funding arrangements in the two countries mean there is likely always to be different views on the best estimate, which makes it the more important that the basis for estimates used in public debate is transparent and accessible to all. We hope your discussions with NASUWT will provide an opportunity to agree on the most robust methods as well as ensure greater transparency in its approach to estimating comparisons between England and Wales.

I am copying this letter to the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Suzy Davies AM.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

Related Links:

Letter from Kirsty Williams AM to Sir David Norgrove (December 2019)

Use of statistics on school expenditure in Wales

Dear Sir David

I am writing to you concerning the continued use of outdated and misleading statistics by the Welsh Conservatives concerning expenditure on schools in Wales and a perceived gap in school funding between England and Wales.

This includes occasional references to the last official statistics produced on this matter, dated back to 2010-11 financial year. Some references use unverified and misleading statistics produced by the Teacher’s Union NASUWT. I attach a selection of examples whereby the Welsh Conservatives have variously used different figures.

This is a complex area and the changes in school funding arrangements by the UK Government and the rollout of academies and free schools over the last decade have meant it has been difficult to compare expenditure on schools. Welsh Government has not changed its approach and our official statistics on per pupil expenditure have continued to have been published consistently, transparently and openly. Nevertheless, because the data for England were no longer available on a consistent basis, the Chief Statistician made a decision in 2012 to stop producing a comparison of the position with England and hence no new official statistics have been published since then – this blogs refers.

However, more recently the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have been able to produce new analysis on trends in per pupil expenditure in England and Wales. This used a new data source for England which provided the means for this analysis to be undertaken across maintained schools and academies. The IFS suggest that per pupil funding has fallen faster in England than Wales. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) annual report on school spending shows that whilst spending per pupil in Wales is estimated to have fallen by 6% in real-terms between 2009-10 and 2018-19, this is a smaller cut than in England and Northern Ireland. In England spending per pupil has fallen by 8% or more in real-terms, where pupil numbers have risen. As a result the IFS analysis estimates that over the last decade the gap in spending between England and Wales has narrowed.

The IFS consulted the Chief Statistician on their approach to this analysis and he advises me that their work is the best possible approach that can be taken to this issue, particularly when considering trends over time. As a result of these discussions, the latest Welsh Government statistical release on school budgets in Wales included a summary of the IFS work.
He has also sought a meeting with NASUWT to discuss the figures that I mentioned in the second paragraph, which we hope can help us understand the methodology they have used.
I am as keen as anyone to ensure we have a sound and robust evidence base on per pupil expenditure, and to understand how the financial position of our schools compare with the rest of the UK. This is why I have recently commissioned an urgent review into how much funding is required to fund schools sufficiently in Wales, which will be taken forward independently of government.
The IFS work clearly suggests the gap has narrowed since 2010-11 and as a result it is wholly inappropriate for the Welsh Conservatives to continue to use figures that either pre-date those trends, or in the case of NASUWT data figures that are unverified without transparent methods.

The continued use of these outdated or unverified statistics is having an impact on public debate in Wales at a critical time for public services. I would be grateful for your views on this matter and whether you agree the use of data dating back to 2010-11, or unverified estimates, on this matter should cease.

Yours sincerely

Kirsty Williams AC/AM
Y Gweinidog Addysg
Minister for Education

 

Related Links:

Letter from Sir David Norgrove to Kirsty Williams AM (January 2020)

Response on estimates of inbound visitors

Dear Ms Pow, Ms Hyslop and Lord Elis-Thomas,

Thank you for your letter of 13 August in which you highlight concerns about the quality of estimates from the International Passenger Survey for inbound visitors. You pointed to the importance of these estimates in enabling you to monitor and evaluate existing policy and develop new strategies.

Clearly you must be able to rely on these estimates. The Office for Statistics Regulation has committed to bringing forward its planned review of Overseas Travel and Tourism statistics. The review will include consideration of the issues you have raised in your letter with a view to publishing findings by the end of September 2019. This review will build on the compliance check published in October 2018 which looked at the transparency and communication of International Passenger Survey methods changes, delays and quality information.

OSR will engage with your officials to ensure the review reflects the concerns you have identified.

I am copying this letter to Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy.

Yours sincerely,

Sir David Norgrove

 

Related Links:

Letter from Rebecca Pow MP, Fiona Hyslop MSP and Lord Elis-Thomas AM to Sir David Norgrove (August 2019)