Exclusive: Date revealed for when DfE will publish revised 2014/15 achievement rate data

Long-awaited revised achievement rates for individual providers will be published on July 27, FE Week can reveal.

The Department for Education released the 2015/16 National Achievement Rate Tables for individual providers on June 15 after what they described as closing significant “loop-holes” – but failed to provide comparable figures for previous years, as they normally would.

Despite failing to publish the revised figures for 2014/15, the DfE statisticians did admit that when the figures were recalculated to remove the loop-holes, some providers saw their 2014/15 achievement rates fall by over 20 percentage points.

This prompted concern of a cover-up, with a prominent independent statistician calling for an investigation in a story on the front page of FE Week.

FE Week also asked for the missing data via a freedom of information request submitted to the DfE on June 15.

The DfE confirmed the following week that it had U-turned on this and was now assessing how it can publish extra information that “allows for some comparability at provider level” for earlier years based on 2015 to 2016 methodology, and it would it would announce a date for when this would be provided “as soon as possible”.

FE Week has now has now received the FOI response 20 working days after the request – which did not provide the requested data, but said it would be made public at the end of this month.

It read: “The department intends to publish the information as additional information to the ‘national achievement rates tables transparency data 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015’ publication on July 27, 2017.”

The NARTs cover apprenticeships, education and training, are published annually, though in recent years releases have been subject to delays.

At the time our FOI was submitted, Jonathan Portes, an independent expert in government statistics and a professor of economics and public policy at Kings College London, called for an investigation into the DfE’s failure to be forthcoming with the necessary data, which he described as “incomprehensible”.

The department said in the FOI response it would not directly pass on the requested data to FE Week, ahead ofJuly 27, due to an exemption under section 22 of the FOI Act 2000, which “provides for information to be exempt from disclosure where the information is held by the department with a view to its publication by the department or any other person at some future date”.

The additional data is needed because in February the DfE revised its NART figures for 2015/16, causing at a national level a fall of nearly five percentage points in recorded achievement rates, after it admitted closing a series of “loopholes” in the way numbers are reported.

Three months on, it published the revised figures for individual providers – but refused to publish the revised figures for 2014/15.

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