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The Royal Statistical Society Schools Lecture


Susan Starkings, London South Bank University, UK.




Schools Lecture, Guy Lecturer, The Royal Statistical Society


The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) offers a varied and innovative programme of activities and services for teachers and students of statistics in all phases of education [1]. The RSS Schools Lecture is one of these activities and this very popular series of lectures is delivered by a specialist lecturer who appointed each year for audiences of teaches and students across the UK. The RSS Schools Lecture, in its present format, has been running since 2002. A lecturer know as the ‘Guy Lecturer’ is appointed each year to prepare and present a lecture aimed at 15-18 old students that draws out the importance and widespread applicability of statistics in a serious and entertaining way. The lecture is given free of charge at various venues throughout the UK. For delivery overseas the hosting country pays the lecturer’s expenses but the lecture is free.

Susan Starkings was the Guy Lecturer for the academic year 2006-07 and the lecture was entitled “Can you see the wood for the trees? Surveys, sampling, estimation and approximation” [2]. The lecture focused on how woodland and wood plays an important part in daily lives and this talk looked at how the Forestry Commission, the Tree Council and the Arboricultural Association assess the value of trees using statistics. Practical examples involving both mathematics and statistics were used to show how one can assign a value to trees. The audience was involved in the decision making process on how to assign a value to trees using surveys, sampling, estimation and approximation.

Students studying mathematics or statistics from age 15-18 years of age and following the General Certificate in Secondary Education and Advanced level UK curriculum found this lecture very accessible. It was of particular interest to year 11 students thinking of studying mathematics in the sixth form and sixth form students who intend to study a subject with statistics content at university. The lecture was also aimed at teachers who wish to accompany school parties or attend individually.

For the first time this lecture was delivered overseas in Canada, Australia and new Zealand. It was also recorded, in New Zealand, for future use as a teacher training exercise and for use with students in classrooms.

The aim of this presentation will focus on the following aspects namely: (i) to describe the RSS Schools Lecture; (ii) to show examples of 2002-2007 RSS Schools Lectures, in particular the 2006-07 academic year and (iii) to elucidate the benefits of this popular lecturer series in regards to mathematical and statistical education.