< Back to News

ONS Internship: Developing a new measure of average point score in education

August 7, 2014

Office for National Statistics (ONS) 

Organisation/department background

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and is the recognised national statistical institute for the UK. It is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. It also conducts the census in England and Wales every ten years. ONS plays a leading role in national and international good practice in the production of official statistics. It is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority and although they are separate, they are still closely related.

Based in Newport, the Public Policy Analysis Division produces cross-cutting and flexible analysis to respond to emerging analytical priorities. Our analysis adds value, insight, comparability and context to ONS’ outputs to help the user. 

Project brief

The postgraduate intern would be part of the Public Service Productivity branch. The branch produces three annual Public Service Productivity releases covering Education, Health and Total Public Services.

To produce the Public Service Productivity Estimates, Education 2011 (Public Sector Productivity Estimates: Education, 2011 – ONS – published in October 2013), a measure of education output is calculated based on an estimate of volume (or quantity), which is then adjusted for quality. The quality-adjustment factor is applied, in-line with the recommendations of Eurostat (2001) and the Atkinson Review (2005).

The current method of quality adjustment for public service education output uses annual Average Point Score (APS) results for each country. As policy and curriculum have varied over time and between countries, the time series approach currently used, particularly for England and Wales, is becoming less sustainable.

This project is to develop an alternative measure of APS. The aim is to develop a measure that takes more account of the grade distribution of alternative qualifications to GCSE’s. The new measure will be used to construct future quality-adjustment factors.

The project will involve:

  • Processing large datasets of student records obtained from the Department for Education (under a data access agreement);
  • Liaising with the ONS Methodology Division (who are part of the project team), Department for Education, and the devolved administrations;
  • Using statistical techniques to analyse the data;
  • Consulting with users and stakeholders;
  • Establishing a new, enhanced measure of APD;
  • Presenting your finding to the ONS Methodology Advisory Committee; and
  • Embedding the final measure within the branch’s production processes.

The project is expected to take a single postgraduate intern six months to complete.

Student specification

Skills and expertise required by the intern:

  • Experience of analysing large datasets;
  • Knowledge of SAS (or similar statistical programming language) or SQL;
  • Knowledge of Statistical or Econometrics Methods.
  • Experience of presenting to external audiences and colleagues.
  • Good communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  •  Good organisational skills and a proven ability to deliver high quality outcomes 

Start date of Internship

Negotiable preferably autumn 2014 


Disclosure Scotland – Basic Disclosure is required for all ONS employees. It can be applied for online although there is a cost (of £25) which will be reimbursed on starting in ONS. 


Any queries and applications to ONS should be addressed to fiona.massey@ons.gov.uk