One of the supposed advantages of official statistics is that they are quick and easy to use to find out basic information.
To test this out, I use the following as a starter for my ‘official statistics’ lesson with my A-level sociology students:
I print the above off as a one paged hand-out and give students 10 minutes to find out the approximate answers to each of the questions.
If some students manage to find all of them in less than 10 minutes, they can reflect on the final question about validity. I wouldn’t expect all students to get to this, but all of them can benefit from it during class discussion after the task.
Official statistics stater: answers
Below are the answers to the questions (put here because of the need to keep updating them!)
How many people are there in the UK?
66, 800 000 estimated in 2020
How many households are there in the UK?
27.8 million in 2019
How many marriages were there last year in the UK?
240 000 in 2017, latest figures available
How many cases of Domestic Violence were there in England and Wales last year?
In the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men).
Source: Domestic Abuse in England and Wales, November 2019.
What proportion of GCSE grades achieved 4 or above in 2020, how does this compare to 2019?
79% of GCSE entries in 2020 received 4 or above, up from 70% in 2019.
Source: The Guardian.
How many students sat an A level in Sociology last year?
38, 015 students sat an exam in A-level sociology in 2019.
Source: Joint Council for Qualifications (curse them for PDFing their data and making it less accessible for broader analysis).
Do any of the above sources lack validity?
It’s hard to make an arguement that the last two have poor validity – however, you can argue that these are invalid measurements of students’ ability, because of variations in difficulty of the exams and a range of other factors.
With the DV stats, there are several reasons why these cases may go under reported such as fear and shame on the part of the victims.
Marriages, there may be a few unrecorded forced marriages in the UK.
In terms of households, the validity is pretty high, as you just count the number of houses and flats, however, definitions of what counts as a household could lead to varying interepretations of the numbers.
The population stats are an interesting one – we have records of births, deaths and migration, but illegal immigration, well be it’s nature it’s difficult to measure!
The point of this starter and what comes next…
It’s kinaesthetic demonstration of the practical advantages of official statistics, and gives students a chance to think about validity for themselves.
Following the starter, we crack on with official statisics proper – considering in more depth the strengths and limitations of different types of official statistics, drawn from other parts of the A-level sociology specification.
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