The Star Chamber is one of the main vehicles in the Department's drive to reduce bureaucracy impacting on LA children's services (including education) and schools. It was formed in 1999 to review existing and proposed data collection exercises originating from within the Department and relaunched in October 2006 with a wider remit and enhanced powers. The Star Chamber ensures new data collection exercises
do not create unnecessary burden
do not duplicate in content existing collections
seek to keep data requests to the absolute minimum needed to develop policy
amalgamate and streamline exercises wherever possible.
Until late 2008, decisions were based on consideration of proposals both internally, by data and finance experts, and by an External Scrutiny Group (ESG) comprised of headteachers and LA representatives.
In November 2008, the methodology and decision-making chain was simplified to reflect the Department's public commitments to reduce data burdens on schools and LAs and in recognition of the balanced approach the ESG had taken in their scrutinising. The ESG was then renamed the Star Chamber Scrutiny Board and given the power to make the decisions on whether the collection proposals should receive approval.
The secretariat would be pleased to offer initial advice, at the outset, when policy colleagues requiring Star Chamber clearance are planning any data collection exercise involving schools or LAs.
Star Chamber approval is needed for all data collection exercises.
Step one, ask yourself:
Is your exercise needed?
Is every question you wish to ask essential to the need?
Are you certain the data doesn't exist already? Policy colleagues must check no similar data is already held, both within the Department and/or by partner bodies such as OFSTED, QCDA, TDA, CSCI and others. The Star Chamber secretariat will be happy to advise.
Will you need to make significant numbers of schools or LAs aware of your exercise and, if so, have you thought how best to reach them?
Submit your completed Star Chamber template to the secretariat.
You should ensure information about the data collection exercise is clearly explained. Avoid jargon and acronyms.
Your responses should be succinct, explaining, for example, how standards will be raised or outcomes for children affected, as a result of the exercise.
You should contact Simon Grigor in the Data Services Group for advice on sample size and mechanisms for collecting the data and to ensure these are reasonable for the purposes required. If your plans involve the Department's Data Services Centre carrying out the collection, you should contact Roger Edwards. Questionnaires must adhere to the Star Chamber guidance on this website.
The Star Chamber process consists of consultation within the Department and with external partners through the monthly meeting of the Star Chamber Scrutiny Board (SCSB), where the decision is made. Dates of SCSB meetings, and the last dates for receipt of papers, can be found on the SCSB meeting dates page. We therefore recommend you build sufficient time into your exercises for this process.
You should be prepared to field a person at the SCSB meeting to answer questions from the board. Following a discussion of the papers, board members will let the secretariat know on the morning of the meeting which business cases they wish to discuss with a representative. The secretariat will then let you know if you need to attend. Although the board meetings take place in London, links can be made with other Department sites via a "spider phone".
Following clearance from the Star Chamber, schools must be given a minimum of four weeks to reply. LAs will have two weeks. If LAs need to gather information from schools, they must then also receive four weeks.
Please note: Any requests that will require changes in system design (such as social care collections or the school census) may involve a lead-in time of many months. Changes to social care collections must be agreed six months prior to the start of the data collection year.
When considering the appropriate timing for a collection you should consult the data collections calendar so that you are aware of the other pressures schools and LAs may be under.
Data Services Group
Telephone: 01325 735499
Data and Statistics Division