SFA may have breached Code of Practice

SFA may have breached Code of Practice

Data on the FE comparison website, FE Choices, being investigated for unannounced changes.

The government’s performance comparison site for further education is under scrutiny following an investigation by FE Week into unannounced changes.

FE Choices, formerly known as Framework for Excellence, was published by the Data Service, part of the Skills Funding Agency, on January 26.

However, using figures compiled on the day the system was launched and figures which are now on FE Choices, FE Week has found that the initial data posted on the site, under the Learner Satisfaction performance indicator, has been amended.

It means that the Agency could be in breach of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics by the UK Statistics Authority”

The changes have been made in the “Comparison of responses for this age/level group against other organisations” section – an aid for stakeholders, such as prospective students, to immediately work out how a provider compares with average data for the same provider type and to all organisations which are on FE Choices.

Despite the changes, believed to have been made in early February, neither the Agency nor the Data Service made any announcement.

It means that the Agency could be in breach of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics by the UK Statistics Authority, which requires prompt public announcements on errors which are discovered in statistical reports.

The Skills Funding Agency initially denied any change had occured, but on further pressing and supplying additional evidence they revised their statement.”

A statement posted on the FE Choices homepage today reads: “It has been brought to our attention that some figures for the Learner Satisfaction indicator have changed since the original release on 26 January.

“We are investigating this issue and will provide more information in due course.”

The announcement on the FE Choices website was only made after the changes were brought to the attention of the Agency by FE Week. The Agency initially denied any change had occured, but on further pressing and supplying additional evidence they revised their statement.

According to one of the data managers for FE Choices, who asked to remain anonymous, within a day of the data going live, it was found the figures for the Learner Satisfaction performance indicator were erroneous.

Although identified quickly, it is understood that the amendments to FE Choices were not made until more than a week later, in early February.

The data manager said this demonstrates “maladministration and disregard for the standards” and a lack of governance.

Speaking to FE Week, he said that the data should have been removed as soon as the error was found.

He said: “As soon as they knew there was an error they should’ve let stakeholders know.

“What they should have done is disabled the Learner Satisfaction pages. It should’ve been switched off, but they chose not to do that.”

He also added: “People are making choices on failed data, because it’s wrong.”

​For more on this story, see the next edition of FE Week.