Monthly Archives: August 2012

Chris Cook

The Ofqual decision that is all is well on the English GCSE has not been received well by schools. I thought, further to my last post, that it would help understand school leaders’ feelings about this if we took a case study of an excellent school.

I have asked Sally Coates, head of Burlington Danes Church of England Academy – one of the Ark Schools – to explain what she went through last week.  Before you read her account, I thought I would explain why this particular school matters.

Like other Ark Schools, BDA uses “progression” to gauge its success. It benchmarks itself on improving and stretching each child, regardless of the level of their education when they enter. It does not simply attempt to hit the government’s targets.

As a result, BDA expends effort on people who already know enough to get Cs in English, maths and three other subjects – the basket of achievement used by the government to measure school success. This school does not – unlike others – fixate on the C/D line.

This is easy to spot: Ark’s performance rises dramatically when you use a measure that gives schools credit for getting children to higher grades than C. BDA stacked up 24 children last year who managed straight As in English, maths and three other subjects.

Let me be clear,  the school does keep an eye on that grade boundary. Here, indeed, is a photo of the Venn diagram Ms Coates describes below, enhanced with some light photoshopping to make sure it is entirely anonymous.

Children are in a circle showing where they are weak. Each child in each circle gets appropriate tutoring to help drive them up to the line.

But this intervention is only one of a chain of monitoring lines. Children in the “safehouse” are being monitored against higher grades elsewhere. I will return to this, but BDA’s results show a great deal more As and Bs than is normal.

That is why Ms Coates’s anger is so important: despite being focused on progression, not the narrow “C will do” measures used by the government, the school was caught out by the shift in the C/D boundary. Now, over to Ms Coates: Read more

Kate Allen

The big story from today’s Office for National Statistics migration figures is undoubtedly the strength of student immigration to the UK. But there is another angle, which is also worthy of attention.

More people left the UK to find work than arrived in the UK for work, according to the provisional data for 2011. That is, the net effect was the departure of 17,000 workers from the UK. This level of workers’ outward migration has only happened once before in the past decade, at the height of the recession in 2009. Read more

Kate Allen

Angela Merkel has been making much of Germany’s predominant role in the EU’s trade relationship with China – the oft-touted ‘special relationship’. The EU overtook Japan as China’s main source of imports back in 2011, and Germany is the biggest contributor to that. But Europe’s elevated status is not due to its own export growth; rather, it is due to Japan’s continuing performance slide.

Chinese imports

Source: IMF/Haver Analytics

 Read more

Valentina Romei

For those who have had the chance to see them, the luxurious sun beds where fresh cocktails are promptly supplied to the indulging tourists in island resorts can seem like paradise. But the contrast with the poverty of local residents across many of these islands gives rise to the question of what impact tourism has on raising the level of national wealth?

So on a raining Wednesday in London, here is a look at the differing fortunes of some top holiday destinations:

The chart above shows how the GDP per capita in each island as a proportion of that of the US has changed since 1995 (unless otherwise specified) together with the change over the same time period in the number of tourists as a proportion of the population. Read more

Chris Cook

Over the weekend, Ofqual announced it will examine the English modules that have caused so much concern lately, where many children who expected Cs were given Ds. This will focus on chunks of the new AQA English GCSE and, one assumes, take in the equivalent OCR and Edexcel* qualifications.

This is a very brief blogpost to briefly explain why this matters so much to schools (beyond the fact that they want their pupils to do well). First, we start off with a very simple chart using 2011 data: for each school, I have worked out the share of children passing English, maths and three other GCSEs with a C grade or above.

This measure (the “PACEM” metric) matters: it is the figure that is used to rank schools, and to decide whether they get shut down or not. A school where below 40 per cent of students are below the line is at risk of a forced change of management.

So I have ranked schools on this measure, bundled them into percentiles, and lined them up with the lowest league table position populations are at the left and the best are at the right.

For each percentile of schools, I have published two numbers:

  • The red section shows the share of pupils who passed on the PACEM measure, but only got a C in English. That is to say, pupils for whom a one-grade drop in results means falling below the PACEM waterline.
  • The blue section indicates children who passed with a higher grade in English. The two areas are stacked one on top of the other, so the line marking out the top of the blue section indicates the total pass rate.

 Read more

Emily Cadman

One of the more interesting aspects of Friday’s ONS release on the UK internet access patterns is the reasons why households don’t have internet access.

Much of the data release is as you would expect: more households have internet access, and more people are using computers daily, a trend especially noticeable among the young. Read more

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s announcement on August 11 of Paul Ryan as his running mate drew a variety of responses, including cheers, jeers and even some comparisons to John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin in 2008.

But for all the media fervor over Ryan and his controversial budget plan, the polling response has been muted compared to 2008. The Real Clear Politics poll shows  Romney narrowing the gap from 4.6 points to 2.8 since the August 11 announcement.

But compared to 2008, the bump from Ryan looks inconsequential. Nine days after  McCain announced Palin as his running mate, the GOP hopeful had not only erased a 3.9 point deficit, he had taken a narrow 1 point lead.

 Read more

Martin Stabe

The latest data from the FT/Economist Business Barometer, the quarterly global business sentiment survey, was published last week and the business-friendliness section again made for interesting reading.

France’s “business friendliness” has plummeted since the last barometer survey, which was conducted before before the election of François Hollande as president. For the first time, more of the business executives surveyed by the EIU rated the country’s ”unfriendly” than “friendly” to business. Read more

Kate Allen

The government has made admirable moves towards openness and transparency in recent years, with one landmark step being to publish all payments by government departments of £500 or more. Communities secretary Eric Pickles has gone further, this week deciding to start publishing all spending by his department of £250 and above.

But there is a problem. The spreadsheets list each individual payment, not total amounts per supplier. And suppliers’ VAT numbers are not provided. This makes summarising the payments – often across thousands of lines of data – a very difficult job for anyone aspiring to create aggregate figures.

Let’s take Mr Pickles’ department, Communities & Local Government, as an example. Its latest quarterly release contains 9,750 lines of data. It encompasses all sorts of activities, from PFI grants to mobile phone line rental charges. Many of the payments require an expert jargon-buster to interpret: did you know that “NNDR billing authorities receipts” means business tax?

The smallest payment listed during the period was £1.24 to Banner Business Supplies for stationery. The largest was £1.9bn to the Office of the Paymaster General (those NNDR billing authorities receipts again). A government department is a very complicated entity and trying to understand its activities through scrutinising its history of individual payments is rather like trying to write a biography of a subject by looking solely at their bank statements. Read more

Martin Stabe

Iran's weightlifters Behdad Salimikordasiabi and Sajjad Anoushiravani took gold and silver in the men's +105kg

As expected, the US and China topped the conventional Olympic medal tables (however you chose to sort them). But by merely achieving the expected, the sporting superpowers appear much farther down the FT’s weighted medal table, which ranks countries by how much they exceeded pre-Games expectations.

Our table benchmarked nations performance against macroeconomic factors known to affect Olympic performance, such as GDP and population.

Great Britain’s 29 gold medals and 65 overall was enough for third place on the FT table as well as the conventional table – an impressive feat given the handicap our methodology imposed on it by taking into account the host-nation advantage.  Here’s a look at some of the other nations that can leave London extremely happy, having greatly exceeded expectations. Some of them may surprise you. Read more

Martin Stabe

This scatterplot below shows how nations’ actual medal performance at London 2012 compares to the economic models used to construct the FT medal table, along with some of the underlying factors used by the models, such  GDP, population and performance at Beijing in 2008.

 Read more

Martin Stabe

How does Great Britain’s haul of 65 medals, including 29 golds, compare to other recent host nations’ performance?

There can be little doubt that greater recent investment in elite sports is the main cause of  Great Britain’s impressive performance at these Olympics an uptick in performance compared with Beijing 2008 would have been expected regardless, because of a well-documented “host-nation effect” that sees the home team performed significantly better than it usually does. Read more

Chris Cook

When Usain Bolt, not a naturally modest man, thanks you for your help after clinching his umpteenth gold medal, you have probably done something right. Brunel and Birmingham universities won his praise for their help in preparing and hosting the Jamaican team.

Other universities can claim to have done rather well. I quite liked this exchange on Twitter between William Hague, foreign secretary, and Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor of the University of East London (which is hosting the US Olympic team).

But on to the medals! Here, courtesy of Podium, the body representing universities and colleges at the London Olympics, is the roster showing which institutions have done best at the sports. If you look on their site, you can see the full list.

For institutions, this table does actually matter: as I wrote last week, universities are an increasingly important spine of Team GB’s infrastructure.

UPDATE – 22:30, 14 August: The Podium list is correct, but it only includes conventional universities and colleges. However, the Open University won two golds and three bronzes. I’ve not included it in the table – some OU athletes are already booked as the undergraduate alumni of other universities, and this could get messy. But, bear in mind, if the OU were entered in it and credited with all of them, it would be in sixth place.

Institution Gold Silver Bronze Total
University of Edinburgh 3 0 0 3
University of Nottingham 2 2 1 5
University of Oxford 2 2 1 5
University of Cambridge 2 1 2 5
University of Reading 2 1 1 4
St Mary’s University College 2 0 1 3
University of St Andrews 2 0 0 2
University of Bristol 1 2 2 5
University of Bath 1 2 0 3
Peter Symonds College 1 1 1 3
Hopwood Hall College 1 1 0 2
Northumbria University 1 1 0 2
Staffordshire University 1 1 0 2
University of the West of England 1 1 0 2
University of Leeds 1 0 2 3
King’s College London 1 0 1 2
Barton Peveril Sixth Form College 1 0 0 1
Bournemouth University 1 0 0 1
Bradford College 1 0 0 1
Cardiff Metropolitan University 1 0 0
Durham University 1 0 0 1
Kingston University 1 0 0 1
Leeds Metropolitan University 1 0 0 1
University of Sheffield 1 0 0 1
University College London 0 3 0 3

What to make of this table? Here are also some important things to note – and I hope they’ll help illuminate some of the nonsense about sport and education in England that has been swirling around lately: Read more

Kate Allen

Buy-to-let properties have bucked the housing market trend in recent years, seeing steady growth in lending.

Partly this is because new finance to owner-occupiers has dropped off so much since the credit crunch: the lack of mortgage availability, particularly for first-time buyers, has fuelled a booming rental market. Demand is pushing up the cost to tenants: average rents are up 4.3% year-on-year.

All this makes buy-to-let an exciting prospect for investors.

lending on buy to let
New buy-to-let lending, £m (source: CML) 

But buy-to-let mortgages are looking increasingly risky, according to detailed new data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Read more

Here are some interactive graphics we have spotted elsewhere this week that are worth a look:

Google labs interactive graphic

Small arms and ammunition – imports and exports
Google labs have published a very interesting visualisation of the global small arms trade, based on data provided by the UN’s COMTRADE database and analysed by the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Explore imports and exports of ammunition, civilian and military weapons between 1992 and 2010 from 250 territories and find out who is selling what to whom. Beautifully designed and easy to navigate, but the usual caveats of unreliable data from China, North Korea, Iran and others still apply. Read more

Britain’s traditional measure of inflation, the retail price index, is broken and needs fixing. The error goes back decades, has cost taxpayers billions, is still costing the exchequer about £1bn a year and has resulted in the rise in living standards being underestimated. Few errors in statistical compilation are quite this serious.

 Read more

Chris Cook

One of my grand theories is that public policy types are generally bad at geography. Or, at the least, they underestimate the importance of where you live. Here, below the fold, are two zoomable maps, coloured by the school performance of local state-educated children. The map is based on where the children live, not where they go to school. To explain:

  • The colouring is red for weaker results and blue for better ones. Darker colours mean more extreme results. If you want detail on an area, click on any one of the blobs and it should give you a run down of local statistics, where possible.
  • Both maps are coloured according to FT score results: that is the sum of state-educated pupils’ scores in English, maths and their top three other subjects.    Other data, including official measures, are in the boxes that pop up.
  • On the first map, the geographical blobs are smaller than on previous maps: the lowest super output area in high density places, and the middle-layer output area in zones of low density (this way, we can show maximum detail).
  • That map can be quite frazzling. The second might be more to some people’s tastes. This is exactly the same sort data, just arranged by parliamentary constituency. Since they are bigger lumps, we can include more detailed data.
  • For the constituencies, I have given a barrage of results for all local children in state schools. But also the same just for FSM-eligible children, and for children dubbed “middle attainers” – kids who score in the middle tenth of results aged 11.
  • (NB – Where statistics are missing, it is prevent people combining data sources to work out something about individual children.)

If you want a tour, I’d recommend scrolling along the coasts. Check out some of the coastal towns, and look at the belt of towns and cities between Hull and Liverpool. Also, take a peek at how few dark red areas there are in London. In-borough variation is interesting, too: look at the massive variation within, say, Kent. Read more

Kate Allen

Only eight countries have seen their GDP drop since 2007 and their government debt top 100 percent of GDP; you can probably name five of that select group easily. Yes, they are the usual Eurozone suspects, plus Japan. But who are the other three?

Perhaps surprisingly, they are all Caribbean countries. Read more

Valentina Romei

The rise of emerging markets has been accompanied by rapid growth in their capital markets. But some markets have emerged more quickly than others. Chart of the week  looks at which markets have grown most quickly, and in which areas.

A recent study by CityUK of 150 emerging economies found that stock market capitalisation in emerging markets more than doubled in the last six years, as did the amount outstanding of domestic and international bonds. Bank assets increased threefold, and contracts traded on derivatives exchanges rose more than fivefold.

Growth was much faster than in the rest of the world, although EMs continue to represent a small part of the global total. They accounted for just 22 per cent of global market capitalisation in 2011, up from 9 per cent in 2005, and for 30 per cent of derivatives exchange trading, up from 12 per cent.

 Read more

Emily Cadman

Whilst ancedotes about Olympic fever are two a penny at the moment, do we actually have any evidence about how interested people are? Well these power demand charts, courtesy of the National Grid, perhaps offer one rough and ready way of looking at how engaged the stay at home audience has been at key points.

Firstly, of all the highest TV audience to date – the opening ceremony. The annotations on the charts are from analysts at the National Grid.

The pink line shows electricity demand for the equivalent Friday a year ago, and the blue line the actual demand during the opening ceremony – which drew an average of 22.4m viewers, the highest since 1998, and a peak audience at 9.45pm of 26.9m. Read more