Recruiting a statistical Head of Profession (HoP)

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:31 January 2018
Owner:Government Statistical Service (GSS) Careers Team
Who this is for:Departments recruiting a statistical Head of Profession

When to use this guidance

This policy outlines the principles to follow when recruiting a new statistical Head of Profession (HoP). This guidance also applies when HoPs are appointed on a temporary basis.

When not to use this guidance

This guidance does not apply to the recruitment of Deputy HoPs. You do not need to use this guidance when departmental restructuring causes an existing HoP to move to a new role, or if the remit of a HoP changes, but you should still tell the National Statistician and GSS Policy and Coordination team about these types of changes.

Submitting a request to recruit a statistical HoP

Departments should submit a request to the National Statistician if they want to recruit a statistical HoP. You can do this by completing a submission form. You should send the completed form to

Recruitment principles

You should recruit a HoP for Statistics if your organisation:

  • produces accredited official statistics — called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007
  • produces or makes extensive use of official statistics
  • employs a considerable number of professional statisticians

HoP should be appointed by the organisation’s management. This is in accordance with the recruitment policy for the Government Statistician Group (GSG) and three main principles.

A HoP for statistics must be recruited when an organisation needs a senior statistical leader to take on the relevant roles and responsibilities. The selection process should include an assessment of candidates’ suitability against these criteria.

You should use the GSG Competency Framework as the basis for assessing the statistical competence of a candidate. HoPs should be able to meet all the requirements of the competency framework.

Any statistician appointed to the HoP role would be expected to demonstrate particularly strong evidence and experience of operating at this level. In addition, HoPs would usually be expected to fulfil the generic Civil Service competencies to a Senior Civil Service (SCS) level.

An independent assessor will be part of the interview panel to represent the National Statistician and ensure that GSG standards are met. The independent assessor will usually be an external GSG member and preferably a HoP or Senior Civil Servant (SCS) member of the GSG.

Where an appointment is made through advertising and recruitment, a HoP may also be recruited through:

  • lateral transfer of a HoP from another organisation
  • internal appointment from suitably qualified GSG staff already within that organisation

In all cases, candidates must show they have both the technical and generic skills to successfully perform the expected roles and responsibilities of a HoP.

If the role is a SCS position it also important that the candidate meets the requirements set out in the Government Analysis Function SCS Capability Framework. The Framework includes common capabilities across the Analysis Function. It gives information about the skills and capabilities senior analysts need to lead multidisciplinary teams.

Roles and responsibilities of HoPs

HoPs have three broad responsibilities.

  1. Comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics.
  2. Lead the Government Statistical Service (GSS).
  3. Build statistical capability and capacity.

You can find out more about the roles and responsibilities of HoPs in our guidance.

Recruitment timeline

There are several stages in the process to recruit a HoP.

Department starts recruiting a HoP

Departments should follow the recruitment principles in this guidance.

Department sends submission to National Statistician

Departments should use the submission form to ask for approval to recruit a HoP.

National Statistician’s Private Office (PO) liaises with department

PO informs the department that the National Statistician has approved the appointment. They will ask for:

  • email addresses for both the new HoP and the Permanent Secretary or Chief Executive
  • information about the best time to send a welcome letter from the National Statistician

Department informs new HoP that they have been successful in their application

This step should be completed before the letter from the National Statistician is sent. This is especially important if the HoP is externally recruited.

National Statistician sends welcome letter to new HoP

The HoP welcome letter should signpost new HoPs to useful guidance available on the AF website. The letter should be sent by email and the department’s Permanent Secretary should be copied into the message.

Secretariat handles new HoP administration

The new HoP is invited to all scheduled HoP meetings, added to the HoPs mailing list, and sent useful guidance for new HoPs. An announcement about the new HoP is also included in the HoPs Weekly Email.

Welcome call with National Statistician

The National Statistician’s Private Office will contact the new HoP to organise an introductory welcome call with the National Statistician. It is best practice for the departmental Permanent Secretary and Director of Analysis, where applicable, to also attend this call so roles and responsibilities can be clearly defined.

Support for new HoPs

HoPs Mentor Scheme

The HoPs Mentor Scheme was set up to pair new HoPs with more established and experienced HoPs. It provides an opportunity for new HoPs to learn about their new roles and responsibilities directly from someone who has been in their position. Its benefits can range from the sharing of best practice, to support with any challenges. If you are interested in signing up to the scheme, please contact

Top tips for new HoPs

We have compiled a list of tips for new HoPs using input from experienced HoPs from across the GSS. They suggest new HoPs should:

  • attend the fortnightly HoPs call and quarterly HoPs meetings — if you are unable to attend these meetings, you can send a deputy
  • read the weekly HoPs email and share the relevant information with your statistical community — this includes Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs)
  • hold HoP drop-in sessions, either in person or online, so people can meet you, or talk to you informally about any issues they have
  • build relationships with the other analytical HoPs in your department
  • join a cross-GSS or cross-Analysis Function board or committee
  • keep a record of all your departmental champions and ask for regular updates when they attend meetings on behalf of the department
  • get a GSS HoP buddy or a mentor, or both
  • hold events with all your departmental statisticians — you could hold these types of events 2, 3 or 4 times a year

Please contact the GSS Policy and Coordination team at with any advice you may have for new HoPs.

You can find a list of useful resources and contact details for new HoPs on our webpage.

Appointing Lead Officials for Statistics

Departments or Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) that do not have a HoP should appoint a Lead Official for Statistics. You should appoint a Lead Official (LO) for Statistics where:

  • an organisation produces official statistics, but does not produce enough of them to warrant appointing a HoP
  • there is no suitable candidate for the HoP role — a LO for statistics should be appointed as a temporary measure in this case

ALBs and Executive Agencies (EAs) would often be expected to appoint an LO rather than a HoP. But this is not always the case.

Where possible, these types of organisations should plan for the LO to be supported by a HoP in another organisation. This could be a related or sponsoring organisation. The relevant HoP is responsible for providing professional guidance and support to the LO on all official statistics matters. While the LO has responsibility for Code compliance and interaction with the OSR in their organisation, the HoP and LO are expected to work closely. The HoP would lead on the behalf of the LO on cross-GSS and HR matters.

The HoP is responsible for acting as the main point for communication between the:

  • National Statistician
  • GSS
  • ALB

The LO is responsible for liaising with the OSR during the assessment of official statistics produced by their organisation. They must also inform the HoP of progress with this work and any issues that arise. LOs must comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics in the same way as HoPs. LOs are accountable to the National Statistician on professional matters.

The National Statistician may ask some LOs to interact more directly with the wider GSS and HoPs as the leadership group for the GSS.

If an organisation produces a significant statistical output the National Statistician may recommend that they recruit a HoP, rather than a LO.


Date Changes
10 March 2023 Updated with formatting changes and addition of links to further guidance. Sections on "Support for New HoPs" and a "Recruitment Timeline" have also been added.
1 July 2020 This policy is version two. It was updated in July 2020 to reflect minor changes in role holders. The policy will be reviewed and updated in 2020 in line with the new GSS strategy.



Head of Profession appointment submission form (ODT, 0.02MB)

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