Steerpike

Exams farce chief out at top data body

Exams farce chief out at top data body
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It's been a busy afternoon in Westminster, with both Boris Johnson's press conference and Sajid Javid's Commons statement absorbing the attention of SW1's finest hacks. In the New Labour era, such a smorgasbord of headlines would be what cynical spin-doctors call: 'A good day to bury bad news' – with all eyes elsewhere, it's the perfect time to take out the trash.

So Mr S was intrigued to see Oliver Dowden's culture department quietly issue a letter today, thanking Roger Taylor for his three years at the helm of the little-known 'Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.' The latter is best known as the former chair of exams regulator Ofqual, who quit at the end of last year after the summer's A-level results day fiasco. In September he conceded that, with hindsight, it was clear that the regulator’s grading algorithm could not overcome students’ feeling of unfairness over grades for exams they had not taken and left the post shortly thereafter.

Now, seven months after relinquishing the Ofqual gig, Taylor has also left his other role at the CDEI which he has chaired since 2018. On the DCMS website Dowden's (one-way) letter explains how it is now time 'to move into the next phase', with Mr S noting how one section in particular might have a particular meaning for Taylor, in light of last year's Ofqual farce:

The role of data and AI is more important than ever to secure economic growth and wellbeing. However, we will not be able to reap those rewards if we don’t get some fundamental things right. We must continue to build public trust in data and data-driven technology, and keep showing people the benefits of data when it is used in the right way.

Let's hope Taylor's successor takes that lesson to heart. Steerpike notes that the last piece of research published by the CDEI was a piece of polling done with Britain Thinks a fortnight ago. The think tank's outgoing CEO is of course Deborah Mattinson who will shortly take up the reins as Sir Keir Starmer's director of strategy, amid accusations she was acting as a 'sleeper agent' at the heart of Whitehall.

Take about a leaving gift eh?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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