CBI calls for education focus to shift from GCSEs to A levels

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A report published for this year’s annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (19 November 2012) has called for the focus of the English exam system to shift from GCSE to A level.
 
The CBI report, First Steps, recommends a complete overhaul of the UK’s education system. Among the many recommendations made in the report was that maths and English should be studied by all until 18, but for there to be different routes of study for students on different career paths post-16.
 
After pointing out that England, Wales and Northern Ireland have the lowest proportions of students studying maths in advanced economies during the upper phase of secondary education, the report recommended that the government develop ‘clearly rigorous and stretching standards for both academic and vocational A-levels, with maths and English retained until 18 for both’.
 
The report also stressed the importance of tailoring mathematical study post-16 to an individual’s needs. ‘Maths study for a retail apprentice and for an A-level student will be fundamentally different, but it is vital that both are undertaken,’ it said.
 
Both of these recommendations are currently already being acted on by the government; however, the report also recommended that policy should focus on developing the exams taken at 18 rather than those taken at 16. ‘There is an opportunity to realign the system rather than simply putting a tougher exam in place,’ it said.
 
The report talked of moving away from GCSEs to a mix of exams and regular assessments aimed at supporting student decision-making about subject choices and career paths. These could be undertaken at 14 or 16, including .
 
‘In some cases secondary schools have become an exam factory,’ said John Cridland, CBI Director-General. ‘Qualifications are important, but we also need people who have self-discipline and serve customers well.’
 

Statistics in Sport Section AGM 2012

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The inaugural annual general meeting of the Society’s Statistics in Sport Section will take prior to the next meeting of the Section on Tuesday 11 December 2012 at the RSS in London.
 
In accordance with the regulations of the section, the following are recommended by the section committee as members of the committee for the 2013 session:
 
Ian McHale (University of Salford) –Chair
Luigi Colombo (Smartodds)
Frank Duckworth
John Haigh (University of Sussex)
David Hastie (Onside Analysis)
Ian Preston (University College London)
Trevor Ringrose (Cranfield University)
Phil Scarf (University of Salford)
Jonathan Tawn (Lancaster University)
3 vacancies
 
Unless alternative nominations are received by the theme manager for sections Paul Gentry before 27 November, these persons will be declared elected at the annual general meeting.
 

ONS seminar on household income and expenditure

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The Office for National Statistics is to host a seminar on household income and expenditure at the Royal Statistical Society.
 
The seminar, ‘Measuring Income and Spending of Households in the UK economy’, will be held at the RSS on the morning of 18 January, 2013 and will be primarily aimed at suppliers and users of this particular data.
 
The event will include presentations from the ONS household expenditure and income teams on how the estimates are compiled, as well as analyses conducted by ONS and future developments. There will also be presentations from The Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Bank of England on how they use household expenditure and income estimates (including the savings ratio).
 
These presentations will be used to generate discussion around the ONS estimates, and users of these statistics will also be able to provide feedback on how they use the data and what future developments they would like to see.
 
The event is free of charge; however, spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. See the ONS website for further details.
 

RSS to hold conference on statistics for adult social care policy

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A major conference on the statistical base needed for adult social care policy is to be held by the Royal Statistical Society’s Statistics User Forum on 29 January 2013.
 
The keynote speaker is Andrew Dilnot, whose Commission on Funding of Care and Support identified the lack of a robust statistical base either for analysing the current social care situation or for monitoring and evaluating the effects of future changes.
 
This one-day conference at the Royal Statistical Society will bring together other experts in social care policy; analysts and researchers in government, academia and others concerned with social care policy delivery. Raphael Wittenberg from the LSE will give an overview of data currently available and use in England and Wales, while representatives from the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), along with social and health care think tanks NatCen and the Nuffield Trust, will give their views on how to fill the current gaps in statistical data in this area.
 
The conference will explore the adequacy of the statistics currently used to analyse adult social care service availability, utilisation and costs. It aims to identify the major issues for future study and to map out how they might be addressed, as well as provide some pointers for action in both the short and medium term.
 
Further information and registration details can be found on the StatsUserNet site.
 

ONS publish National Well-being ‘wheel of measures’ with first annual report

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The Office for National Statistics has created an interactive ‘wheel of measures’ tool, which draws together key statistics in areas such as employment, health and where we live.
 
The interactive wheel was published on the same day as the first annual report on Measuring National Well-being released by the ONS, which includes a background to the programme and next steps. The report also includes an overview of life in the UK 2012, examined under three headings: economic, social and environmental well-being.
 
The Measuring Well-being programme, which is still in its early days, was designed to complement other National Statistics so that a fuller, more informed snapshot of life in the UK could be formed. National Statistician Jil Matheson explained: ‘These findings emphasise the need to look beyond the ‘average’ or national picture – it is understanding these differences that will highlight the real areas of need.’
 
It’s hoped that the programme’s holistic approach will help to inform policy development. The ONS cites one example where this could be the case: apparently research has shown that those on job seekers allowance with poor mental health and low subjective well-being take longer to find work; therefore connections could now be made between Job Centres and Mental Health trusts to address the issues.
 
The next release from the programme will focus around health; longer term, the next phase of the Measuring National Well-being programme will be designed to identify and explore in more detail areas which differ from the average and to investigate the relationships between factors affecting well-being.
 

Statistics Authority calls for greater cohesion in health stats

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Recent correspondence between Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the chair of the UK Statistics Authority Andrew Dilnot, has suggested that a working group of representatives could be set up to review the coherence of the wide variety of health statistics currently being produced.
 
The issue was raised last month (October 2012) when Andrew Dilnot wrote to the health secretary voicing concerns that while great volumes of health data is currently being produced, there is an ‘absence of central co-ordination of its production and public availability’. The letter was accompanied by a review on the accessibility of official statistics on health which identified ‘22 UK organisations that produce official statistics relating to health, and a further 21 that publish relevant statistics but which are not currently formally recognised as producers of official statistics.’
 
The Statistics Authority chair also called for health statistics to be published for the UK as a whole rather than from the separate devolved administrations, and proposed that a web-based directory of health statistics be set up as a resource to answer questions such as ‘who produces what’ and ‘am I comparing like with like?’.
 
The health secretary’s response welcomed the proposal to set up a working group on the issue. He pointed out that many of the English bodies mentioned in Dilnot’s review were to be incorporated in to Public Health England, a new body being set up as of April 2013 as a result of the government’s reforms to public healthcare.
 
Regarding producers of official statistics, Hunt said that his department were working with the Cabinet Office who are ‘reviewing the secondary legislation that list official statistics producers, with a view to ensuring that appropriate organisations in the new architecture are properly listed’.
 
He also confirmed that the Health and Social Care Information Centre would be a ‘focal point for national data’ and that the overall strategy ‘envisages a single comprehensive portal for health data’.
 
Regarding UK-wide statistics, however, Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that since health policy has been devolved, there would be a ‘natural limit on the comparability that is achievable between the different information systems of different administrations.’
 

UN director of statistics steps down

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Paul Cheung, the director of the UN’s Statistics Division (UNSD) is to step down from his post as of 31 December 2012.
 
He leaves after nine years of service, citing personal reasons. He is to return to his home country of Singapore and join the National University of Singapore as a professor.
 
During Cheung’s time at the UN, its Statistical Division has grown from 76 member states in 2004 to 136 in 2012. It organised the World Statistics Day in 2010 and in 2011, began a major initiative to integrate statistical and geospatial information on a global scale in the Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) project.
 
In his resignation letter, Cheung thanked his colleagues at UNSD. ‘I am deeply grateful for the support, guidance and friendship you have provided me throughout my tenure,’ he wrote. ‘It was a great honour for me to have had the opportunity to lead the Statistics Division for almost nine years. It was indeed a most fulfilling period in my career.’
 
Cheung indicated that recruitment for a new director would soon begin. ‘I trust that under the new management, UNSD will blossom brightly as an institution of great standing,’ he added.
 

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