NEWS21 June 2024

Stats training vital for ministers, RSS tells political leaders

2024 elections Data analytics News UK

UK – All ministers in the incoming UK government should be schooled in interpreting statistics, according to the Royal Statistical Society, which has called on all the major parties to commit to training for its top leaders.


The move follows evidence given during the COVID inquiry about the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others having been unable to properly interpret data during the pandemic, and more recent criticism of Rishi Sunak by the statistics regulator for his claims around Labour’s tax calculations.

The RSS has previously found that only just over half of MPs were able to answer a simple probability coin-toss question. 

It has written to leaders of all the main parties asking them to commit to stats training for all their ministers if they are elected, as well as an end to pre-release access to official data, which allows the government to see key statistical releases before the press and public. 

Pre-release access was ended for ONS statistics in 2017 following a long campaign by the RSS, but it remains in place for official statistics produced by other government departments and the devolved administrations. 

“The pandemic showed the real-life consequences of decision-makers not having the right data skills,’ said RSS president Dr Andrew Garrett. 

“We urge whoever is elected in July to make our call for statistical training a priority, as well as end pre-release access to statistics.”

RSS CEO Dr Sarah Cumbers said: “The UK is lucky to have one of the strongest statistical systems in the world, but a lack of data skills in our politicians can threaten to undermine this. Our next prime minister has a real opportunity to build public confidence in our data by ending any potential spin and ensuring their ministers use statistics responsibly.”