So unlike most people, I don’t have much time off over the summer. My partner works on the local canal in Wales and can only have limited time off when the season is in full swing. We do at least have a few days off, but come November and season end, we’ll be off.
Many across the Government Statistical Service find themselves in our position too as statistical relevance can be as important in holiday season as outside. This year as in the past three, I will be having a frantic summer back in the Department of Education (DfE) working with them for a few days to get the right information available for GCSE and A-level results days, and explain what is happening at a time of significant change in the exam system.
For so many schools and students, knowing the proper context for their own personal results is very important and this has to happen alongside the release of results to students to ensure we meet their needs. Over the past few years I have seen the dedication of midnight/1am working to ensure the right information is available on time.
Looking to my own area, it is clear they are not alone with a major release on migration statistics and our understanding of student migration in August. Both these areas are ones where the Government Statistical Service (GSS) have had to come together to deliver – be it across Wales, Northern Ireland and DfE – to understand the exam results or across Central Government on migration statistics. This is one of the features of my new role that I am most enjoying.
Those who know me, know that I have been a huge fan of the GSS and what it can deliver when we work together at our best. John Pullinger rather neatly described the difference between Jonathan Athow and my roles as “Jonathan has anything with a pound sign and Iain has the rest”.
But the rest is so important – people vote in refendums and in elections on the basis of their views on the community they live in and changes to it, on the quality of health and education services – I could go on.
The bit I am most enjoying about the future for “the rest” is that we will need to come together, as the GSS, time and again to develop statistics that serve the public good. I was inspired by Home Office’s ad hoc release after the tragic events of the Grenfell fire.
In the future though we could go even further together – imagine the power of a GSS report on housing trends, in the round, produced to get all the facts out there. Occasionally we fear reactions, but in my experience, everyone welcomes the facts clearly set out, and I’d love to work with you to create the environment to support more of the type of work Home Office did.
Looking forward, I think there is a huge opportunity for us as a GSS to set out what we know about the Ageing Society, and from talking with policy-makers across Whitehall they would welcome it too. So while I may be spending my summer thinking about exam results, I’m also hoping that you’ll be inspired to think more about how we can come together across the GSS to add a bit more. I’m open to ideas so please email them in to me.