UK student data from 2002 onward — including names, home addresses, exclusions, exam results, and absences — is now available to private organisations for free through a Government initiative.
Private organisations can now apply to access the UK’s National Pupil Database (NPD) which contains personal data on every state school pupil since 2002.
The NPD contains detailed information about pupils in schools and colleges in England. The data includes:
- test and exam results, prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector
- attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools, sixth-form and further education colleges
- information on pupils in independent schools, where available
Extracts of the data can be applied for by “any organisation or person who, for the purpose of promoting the education or wellbeing of children in England are: conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, providing information, advice or guidance.”
The data available is divided into 4 tiers:
- tier 1 contains the most sensitive personal information
- tier 2 contains other sensitive personal information, including less sensitive versions of tier 1 data
- tier 3 contains school-level data
- tier 4 contains other pupil-level data. For example, attainment, absence and exclusions
A quick dig through the sample files on the DFE website shows that the following information is available to those requesting access to the higher tiers:
- First name / surname
- home address
- first language
- eligibility for free school meals
- special educational needs (SEN)
- pupil absence and exclusions
The Department for Education claims that access to the data is tightly controlled and organisations requesting information need to comply with the Data Protection Act, but the lack of consultation on this can only raise concern, particularly following the NHS Care.data shambles earlier this year. Most concerning is that there is no way for parents or pupils to opt out the database. If your child goes to a state school their personal information is logged and shared.
While I’m not against the use of “big data’ to improve services and drive innovation, there appears to have been little consultation in this matter.
Education Secretary Michael Gove launched a public consultation in November 2012 to let the Department for Education share extracts from the National Pupil Database “for a wider range of purposes than currently possible” to “maximise the value of this rich dataset”.
Are the parents of your students aware that the data from your MIS system, once handed over to the school, will likely end up in the hands of a private organisation? Is your Data Manager even aware of this?
Source: National Pupil Database