23rd March 2012 at 00:00

The mysterious case of the disappearing data

Ah, FE Choices. You might recall that the publication of the government's consumer guide to colleges and training providers left the Skills Funding Agency with a choice of its own: between admitting that it had put out inaccurate data and covering it up. The agency eventually made the right decision, with the assistance of public exposure by this organ's fine journalists.

Now the Data Service's gnomes have been looking into what went wrong. In all, 2,639 learner satisfaction scores were changed, a fraction of the total, but little consolation if your institution was one of those misrepresented.

It turns out that the mistakes included missing zeros for the national comparisons and attaching some of the answer data to the wrong questions. We all make mistakes, but we don't all secretly change official statistics in the hope that no one will notice.

One provider also had their employer satisfaction data changed. FErret suspects this might be the controversial apprenticeships provider Elmfield Training, which had complained that its low, low score of 2.8 was wrong.

Before the review, Elmfield's entire record was removed from the site, along with those of all the other providers (McDonald's, the Intraining Group) where the data had been criticised in a TES column ("Disappointing choices", TES, 3 February). FErret trusts we will also be getting an explanation about that.

A not-so-cultured club

The continued engagement of FE colleges with their counterparts in Iraq, in an effort to help them rebuild their shattered country through education, are an inspiration in gloomy times. All the same, FErret can't help but wonder at the culture clash that must have happened when college leaders from Najaf came to Barking, as happened recently.

Local paper the Yellow Advertiser reported that "visitors also got to experience the culture" on their trip to learn from staff at Barking amp; Dagenham College. Najaf, incidentally, is home to the Imam Ali mosque, Shia Islam's third holiest site. Meanwhile, according to the local council, Max Bygraves once lived in Dagenham.

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