Data collection and research exercises needing to be cleared through the Star Chamber secretariat include all exercises conducted, requested, or paid for by the Department to collect numerical or qualitative data from schools, LAs or children's services, whether in plans or otherwise. This includes exercises relating to sixth-forms in schools, independent schools and nursery schools.
These arrangements will help ensure we minimise the burden imposed on schools, LAs and children's services, and that we comply with government-wide procedures for controlling surveys and their compliance cost. Simon Grigor from the Data Services Group (DSG) will be able to advise you.
No commitment should be given to ministers that information or data will be collected unless the proposed exercise has been cleared by the secretariat. This covers any proposed new data collection exercises, and existing data collection exercises requiring changes that would, if implemented, result in a requirement for schools or LAs to provide information or data. It also includes exercises where the information or data is not collected directly, but where nevertheless all or some of the burden in providing the data will be placed on schools or LAs.
When a breach of the Star Chamber process is identified, the secretariat will draft a note to the policy team's Grade 5 outlining the process that should have been followed. If necessary, the policy team will also be invited to a meeting with the Star Chamber Scrutiny Board to discuss why they failed to follow the correct procedures and outline the actions that will be taken if it happens again. The secretariat will also work closely with the policy team to ensure they are fully aware of the Star Chamber process and what is defined as a data collection or research project.
In the unlikely event the policy team breaches the process for a second time, the secretariat will draft a note from Nick Gibb (as 'senior arbiter' to the Star Chamber) to the relevant director, setting out the breaches and the importance of following the Star Chamber process to achieve the Department's commitment to reduce burdens on frontline staff. The minister may decide it is appropriate for a meeting to be arranged with the policy team to establish why they continue to circumvent the required process.
Exercises in which LAs and schools are being asked to bid for funds are not normally covered by the Star Chamber arrangements. However, Joan Heslington should be contacted whenever such arrangements are planned, as our aim is to eliminate bidding and claiming wherever possible.
School Funding & Technology Unit
Telephone: 01325 391053