Linking MP Pay to Public Sector

Parliament is in another frenzy as IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, has had its 10% pay rise for MPs bitterly rejected by many of the future recipients before they voted to accept it in full.

IPSA says that it isn’t as good an offer as it looks since the golden goodbyes are being scrapped, fiddling expenses will become more difficult and the fantastic pensions are being trimmed a little. Sir Ian, the head of IPSA, says

In making this decision we are very aware of the strongly held views of many members of the public and by some MPs themselves.We have listened to those views.
We have made an important change to the way in which pay will be adjusted annually.
Over the last Parliament, MPs’ pay increased by 2%, compared to 5% in the public sector and 10% in the whole economy. It is right that we make this one-off increase and then formally link MPs’ pay to public sector pay.

Read More…

YouGov Distorts its Latest Election Poll to Get Headlines

With the longest British election campaign in full swing, the pollsters are getting more attention than usual. It is disappointing, then, to see a major polling company falling into bad statistical habits.

Certainty

YouGov has conducted a poll of 1800 people that reverses the Conservative lead of a few days ago, which itself reversed Labour’s lead from the previous poll. You might think that the random seeming changes in results separated by only a few days might, indeed, be random sampling errors, but YouGov is happy to imply otherwise with its headline “Labour Lead at 4%”. That headline has been repeated, without any caveats, by The Sunday Times with a banner headline of “Labour races into 4-point lead after Miliband’s TV success”. But it isn’t true. Read More…

Ofsted Fails to Reach a Grade B in Statistics

Michael Wilshaw’s Ofsted has made a fool of itself yet again as it publishes a report which says more about its naive approach to statistics than it does about the progress of the most able students.

Very Disappointed

Ofsted is not happy. Its 2013 report on the progress of those students who achieved level 5 in their Key Stage 2 exams made some recommendations. Apparently, Ofsted were unhappy then that less than a quarter of those achieving the highest level in Maths and English went on to achieve a B grade or above in their GCSEs, and two years later nothing has improved.

Notwithstanding that expecting that two years is enough time to see improvements when the children involved had been through twelve years of education already, is it a reasonable complaint? Read More…

Wilshaw’s Annual Report Reminds Us of Ofsted Weaknesses

It is the season of heart-warming warming tradition, joy, pre-Christmas sales and crass householders generating enough global warming for a whole town with their shameless lighting displays. So what better way is there to prepare for the holidays than unwrapping the education sector’s annual ticking-off, as Michael Wilshaw issues his Annual Report on Schools?

Wilshaw, forever fighting the urge to tell us how he single-handedly turned his Hackney school into an outstanding beacon of excellence by recruiting middle class students from out of town, this year ripped in to schools with little sixth-forms. Apparently, students attending small school sixth forms “achieve considerably poorer results than those in larger sixth forms”.

Very Small Sixth Forms

Wilshaw said: Read More…

Government School Oversight Failed in Birmingham

8884a-michael_gove_mp

The English school system is fractured right down the middle, with county schools on one side and government academies on the other. While county councils try to develop relationships with the whole family of local schools and get to know the staff in them and their particular issues, the Department for Education has thousands of schools and a strategic view that means they will only get involved when there is already a known issue. Hands on versus hands off: it is, after-all, what the academy system was all about, freeing schools from the dead hand of council control.

But do schools work best when no-one is watching too closely?

Birmingham schools get their OFSTED reports today, with the politicians and press focussing on the extremism, but the real issue is the governance of Academy schools and the fact that OFSTED found itself hoodwinked by the schools themselves. Now, the fact that Head-teachers routinely game the system to the school’s advantage should not be news to anyone involved in the education sector, but it seems to have surprised Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. Read More…

It’s Been a While …

It has been nearly a thousand days since my last post, and a lot has happened in that time. Mr Gove has gone from a reasonable sounding shadow education minister with some good ideas, to an arrogant, self-assured education minister surrounded with yes-men and no ability to distinguish the good from bad.

We now have religious fundamentalist schools redacting parts of science exam papers with which they disagree, a rapid growth of academies without local oversight, radically changed teacher working conditions and pension arrangements, and an untested performance pay system with new head-teacher powers. There are also radically changed exam arrangements, new performance tables, a swelling Maths curriculum, arguments about English and History contents and a minister who seems to be manoeuvring for the party leadership if the Conservatives lose power in the next general election. And there is UKIP making dodgy sounding statistical claims about immigrants, along with the other right wing xenophobic parties getting more shouty all over Europe and America.

On the science side we have the Higgs Boson discovery, badger culls, shale gas extractions, wind turbine fields, the pause in global warming, observations of cosmological chaotic inflation and of quantum gravity waves.

I had originally planned to post to this blog every couple of weeks: that makes me seventy post behind schedule, so it is time to get cracking!

Relax – Latest Health Scare is Just a Scare

The Sunday Telegraph reported this morning that:

“Stroke victims who are admitted to hospital are far more likely to die if they are treated outside central London, an investigation has found. The NHS statistics show survival rates for stroke victims sent to central London hospitals are 54 per cent higher than for those in some parts of the country.”

Fortunately, the ‘Health Correspondent’ Laura Donnelly has got her statistical knickers in a twist. She goes on to write:

“The death rate within 30 days of admission for stroke is 14.6 per cent in the capital’s central sites, according to analysis of the nine years’ data ending 2009 – compared with rates of more than 22 per cent in industrial cities and manufacturing towns”

So, in the poor industrial towns the survival rate is 100% – 22% = 78%. If London is 54% better (154% as good) that makes the survival rate in London 0.78 times 1.54 = 123%. Wow! In London, for every 100 stroke victims taken to hospital, 123 of them survive!

It is the death rate of the industrial towns that is 22% divided by 14.6% = 154%, that is 54% worse. But the vast majority of stroke victims survive, so the survival rate difference is not the same number at all.

Actually, of course the survival rate in London is 100% – 14.6% = 85.4%. The difference in rates is then 85.4% divided by 78% = 109.4%. So London survival is better by a whopping 9.4%. 

Not 54%, then.

Never mind, Laura Donnelly, there will be a real scandal along soon if you wish hard enough. Perhaps an introductory high-school statistics text could be put on your Christmas list this year?

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