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Pupil Identification Number

Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the authorised uses of the pupil identification number are; whether the use of the pupil identification number for non-education purposes is permitted; if he will bring forward legislation to prevent the use of the number for non-education purposes; and if he will make a statement. [104519]

The purpose of the "unique pupil number" (or UPN) is to facilitate the collation of information about pupils accumulated over the course of their school career and so to create profiles of their progress. These profiles are built up from the Pupil Level Annual Schools Census (PLASC) showing the whereabouts and status of the pupil each January in terms of (for example) the school they were attending, their special educational needs, eligibility for free school meals and ethnic group, plus information obtained separately from schools, marking agencies and exam boards on their results in Key Stage assessments and public examinations. The profiles are stored in a National Pupil Database.A small number of technical staff engaged in collating the pupil level data and creating the profiles have access to pupils' UPNs and names. Analysts in the Department and partner agencies (Ofsted, QCA and LSC) have access to anonymised profiles for use for statistical purposes only. LEAs, and through them schools, can access the profiles of their own pupils (including UPNs and names in this case) in order to till gaps in their own data which have arisen through information being lost as pupils move from school to school.Analysis of the profiles in the national database provides schools, LEAs, the Department and its partners with major new information to support standards raising and other policies such as ethnic monitoring. Schools are also helped to make appropriate provision for their pupils by being able to obtain from the national database more complete information about them.The introduction of UPNs in 1999 was preceded by extensive discussions with the then Data Protection Registrar. The system is operated in a manner agreed with her in order to minimise any threat to personal privacy which might be posed if access to and use of UPNs and the National Pupil Database were not properly controlled.The use of UPNs for non-education purposes is not permitted. There is no evidence that any agencies or organisations have attempted to use UPNs improperly for non-education purposes. If such evidence began to emerge, powers exist under the Data Protection Act 1998 which would enable the Department to set out in a Parliamentary order the permitted uses of UPNs, thereby rendering their use for any other purpose illegal.