• Register
Return to: Home > Comments > Comment: Philip Hammond, The Ashes, and statistics

Comment: Philip Hammond, The Ashes, and statistics

By ACCA UK regional head of policy for Europe and the Americas Nick Jeffrey


Many commentators attribute the UK’s low productivity ratings at least in part to deficiencies in training and education. Apprenticeships are one way that the government is seeking to make a lasting impression on the skills gap. ACCA has signed the Skills Partner Statement of Action as a founding partner with UK government.

Employers and government are coming together aiming to “boost social mobility and reduce inequality; deliver the skilled workforce the nation needs; and harness the benefits of ever-changing technology”. They will do this by working together on reforms to the apprenticeship and Technical Education system.

In another development here in the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond announced in his budget that he would set aside £117m to finance improved maths teaching in English schools. It is a welcome and much needed contribution.

Maths is a great subject. It is only dull if it is taught badly. Think about all the everyday things we take for granted that rely on maths. Suspension bridges (how do they stay up?) Airplanes (how do they stay up?) The perfect Yorkshire Pudding mix (why do some go up and some go down?) Boats (why don’t they go down?) Input the phrase “golden ratio” into your preferred search engine - it is fascinating. It amazes me how many times it crops up for example in nature. Sure, it’s a ratio - but it’s not ½, its (1+ √5)2 – it’s so precise and yet seemingly such a random number.

To be fair, statistics was never my favourite branch of maths. Too much estimation and therefore open to interpretation where I favoured a precise answer, like when the Golden Ratio appeared. That said, I do like a good stat with the cricket commentary on @bbctms Test Match Special.

Every person who undertakes media training should be required to take my old maths teacher’s lecture on “The (mis)use of statistics in public life”. He used to pick a statistic that had made the news that week, and demonstrate how the same statistic could be used to support either side of an argument, or give a different impression if used in a different context. Even thirty years ago he couldn’t understand why public figures were not held to account for misleading the public (and, he used to say, the poor journalist interviewing them). Goodness knows what he would have made of the blatant mis-use of statistics by both sides in the UK referendum on membership of the European Union, although as I recall he held most politicians in healthy contempt.

There are many places around the world doing great things in the field of skills and vocational training. There are surely good ideas to share. And lessons to learn.

Of course there will be debates about whether Mr Hammond’s budget did enough for British schools, or the relative effectiveness of the Skills Partnership. But my maths teacher may well have raised a glass to Mr Hammond. Well bowled, he might have said, but that’s just one ball - now concentrate and win the match.

Top Content

    Addressing tax challenges and the digitisation of the economy

    As the economy becomes even more globalised through digital sources, the tax systems currently in place need to be scrutinised to examine whether they are still fit for current and emerging business models. Joe Pickard reports on the OECD’s approach to this issue.

    read more

    Primary financial statements: a game changer in reporting?

    International Accounting Standards Board chair Hans Hoogervorst delivered a speech at the Seminario International sobre NIIF y NIF, organised by the Consejo Mexicano de Normas de Información Financiera in Mexico. The Accountant presents the highlights.

    read more

    FASB readies standards for the netflix generation

    The US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has updated its accounting standard for entertainment, with a specific eye on keeping up to date with how episodic content, such as television programmes, is consumed in the modern world. Jonathan Minter reports.

    read more

    Brexit: why it takes two to tango

    Former TA editor Vincent Huck, now editor of Insurance Asset Risk, looks at why Brexit might unleash geopolitical intrigue in Europe’s accounting standard-setting scene – and why IFRS 17 will be an incredible source of opportunity for firms in the coming years.

    read more
Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.