Government Statistical Service (GSS) Heads of Profession: roles and responsibilities

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:22 February 2018
Owner:GSS Policy and Coordination Team
Who this is for:Members of the Government Statistical Service

Official organisations or bodies should appoint a Head of Profession (HoP) for Statistics if they:

  • produce accredited official statistics — called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007
  • produce a significant number of official statistics
  • produce particularly high-profile statistics
  • employ a significant number of Official Statisticians

HoPs should be appointed by departments, in consultation with the office of the National Statistician. HoPs will stay in the line management of their own organisation but are accountable to the National Statistician for professional issues. Departments of arm’s length bodies (ALBs) that do not have a HoP should appoint a Lead Official for Statistics.

This policy was developed in February 2018 by a task and finish group in consultation with the Statistical Heads of Profession.

This policy was updated in August 2022 line with accessibility guidelines.

Roles and responsibilities for Statistical Heads of Profession

HoPs have three main responsibilities.

Comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics

HoPs have a responsibility to ensure that their organisation complies with:

  • the Code of Practice for Statistics
  • Pre-Release Access Orders
  • relevant data-related legislation
  • the National Statistician’s guidance on Management Information

Lead the Government Statistical Service (GSS)

The power of data and statistics can be enhanced by sharing, linking, and analysing data across organisations. We can also increase the effectiveness of analysis by ensuring that related data and statistics tell a coherent story, even when they are produced by a range of official organisations.

HoPs should:

  • be advocates for the possibilities of data linking, and for a coherent, cross-GSS approach to related statistics;
  • continually consider user needs when producing statistics;
  • make full use of the cross-GSS networks to benefit from the combined knowledge of their peers to help them overcome challenges in their own organisation;
  • support their peers across Government to deal with challenges in other organisations and across the GSS; and
  • develop coherent cross-GSS collections of statistics to inform important policy issues.

HoPs form the leadership group for the GSS and should work with the National Statistician, other Heads of Professions, Chief Statisticians in the Devolved Administrations, and the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), to promote coherent statistics across the UK. They should work to ensure the GSS adapts to the changing data and policy environment.

Build statistical capability and capacity

HoPs should ensure there is suitable recruitment of appropriately qualified statisticians into their organisation. They should:

  • establish and promote a learning culture for GSS staff and for those working in statistics-related areas in their organisation;
  • champion Continuous Professional Development; and
  • ensure access and opportunities for personal development are open to everyone.

HoPs help develop the future statistical capability of the GSS. They should encourage multi-disciplinary work and cross-organisation moves, and should work to strengthen the Civil Service’s Analysis Function.

HoPs are responsible for ensuring the statistical needs of their organisation are met. They should:

  • be advocates for the use of evidence within their organisation;
  • offer advice on statistical issues; and
  • champion the use of statistical information in their organisation’s decision-making processes

Lead Officials for Statistics

An organisation that produces a limited number of official statistics may not need to appoint a HoP. Instead, they can appoint a Lead Official (LO) for Statistics. An organisation can also appoint an LO where there are no suitable candidates for the HoP role.

ALBs are often expected to appoint an LO rather than a HoP. Where possible, these organisations should arrange for the LO to be supported by a HoP in another organisation. This could be in the sponsoring department or another related organisation.

Roles and responsibilities for Lead Officials

LOs have the same responsibilities as HoPs to comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics. They are accountable to the National Statistician on professional matters.

The relevant HoP is responsible for providing professional guidance and support to the LO on all matters relating to official statistics. While the LO is responsible for complying with the Code of Practice and interactions with the OSR in their organisation, the HoP and LO are expected to work closely. The HoP should lead on the LO’s behalf on cross-GSS and HR matters in particular. The HoP is responsible for acting as the main point of contact between the National Statistician, the GSS, and ALBs.

The LO is responsible for working directly with the OSR during the assessment of official statistics produced by their organisation. They should keep the HoP informed of progress with this work and tell them about any issues as they arise.

The National Statistician may ask some LOs to interact more directly with the wider GSS and other HoPs.


Date Changes
1 August 2022 This policy was updated in line with accessibility guidelines.
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