Recruiting a statistical Head of Profession

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


This policy outlines the principles to follow when recruiting a new statistical Head of Profession (HoP).

The submission form is for departments to use when submitting a request for the recruitment of a statistical HoP to the National Statistician.

Recruitment principles

You should recruit a HoP for Statistics if your organisation:

  • produces national statistics
  • produces or makes extensive use of official statistics
  • employs a considerable number of professional statisticians

HoP should be appointed by the organisation’s management in accordance with the recruitment policy for the Government Statistician Group (GSG) and the following principles:

A HoP for statistics must be recruited in anticipation of their expected role and responsibilities. The selection process should include an assessment of candidates’ suitability against these criteria.

Use the GSG Competency Framework  as the basis for assessing their statistical competence.
The Level 3 Principal Statistician criteria should be the minimum statistical ability required for HoP level.

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 level.

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

In addition to situations 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, appointment of an individual to HoP must show that they have both the technical and generic skills in order to perform against the expected roles and responsibilities of a HoP.

Once a suitable candidate has been identified, the organisation should seek approval for this appointment from the National Statistician, providing evidence that the selection process has been carried out in accordance with GSG guidelines.

Appointees remain in the line management of their own organisation but are accountable to the National Statistician for the professional issues. Departments or Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) that do not have a HoP should appoint a Lead Official for Statistics.

Roles and responsibilities of HoP

HoPs have three broad responsibilities:

The core of the role of a HoP is a responsibility to ensure that their organisation complies with:

  • the Code of Practice for Statistic
  • pre-release access orders
  • relevant data-related legislation
  • the National Statistician’s guidance on management information

This ensures official statistics are trustworthy, of high quality, and of high public value. HoPs are also expected to promote the use of the code beyond their organisation – for example, with Arms-Length Bodies (ALBs).

Regardless of their organisation’s statistical structure, HoPs should have oversight of their own organisation’s statistical functions. They are also responsible for the development of any department-specific official statistics policy.

They should make statistical decisions considering the United Kingdom (UK) statistical system as a whole, and any implications for the devolved administrations. HoPs play an important role in building public trust in official statistics.

The power of data and statistics can be enhanced by sharing, linking and analysing data across organisations. And, by making sure that related statistics, even when produced by a range of official organisations, tell a consistent story.

HoPs should be advocates for these possibilities and for a consistent, cross-GSS, approach to related statistics – with users’ needs at the core of their thinking. HoPs are expected to use their cross-GSS networks to bring the combined strength of the GSS to manage challenges within their own organisation.

They should support their GSS colleagues in tackling challenges in other organisations and across the GSS – developing cross-GSS families of statistics to shine a light on important policy issues.

Moreover, HoPs form the leadership group for the GSS and should work with:

  • the National Statistician
  • other HoPs
  • Chief Statisticians in the devolved administrations
  • the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), to promote consistent statistics across the UK.

And they must ensure the GSS adapts to the changing data and policy environment.

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

They should:

  • establish and promote a learning culture for GSS staff and for those working in statistics-related areas within their organisation
  • champion continuous professional development
  • make sure access to and opportunities for personal development are available to all

HoPs play an important role in developing the future statistical capability of the GSS. HoPs should encourage multi-disciplinary work, cross-organisation moves, and should work to strengthen the civil service’s analytical function.

HoPs are responsible for making sure 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
  • promote the use of statistical information in their organisation’s decision-making processes

Lead Officials for Statistics

You should appoint a Lead Official (LO) for Statistics where:

  • an organisation produces official statistics but not enough to warrant appointing a HoP
  • where there is no suitable candidate for the HoP role, that organisation should appoint a LO for statistics.

Often, but not always, ALBs would be expected to appoint an LO rather than a HoP. Where possible, such organisations should plan for the LO to be supported by a HoP in another (e.g. sponsoring or related) organisation.

Engagement with the UK Statistical System

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

The relevant HoP is then 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, with the HoP leading on the LO’s behalf on cross-GSS and HR matters.

The HoP is responsible for acting as the focal 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, keeping the HoP informed of progress and any issues arising.
By exception, the National Statistician may wish for some LOs to interact more directly with the wider GSS and HoPs as the leadership group for the GSS.


Date Changes
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, 0.00MB)

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