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Education: National Pupil Database

Volume 717: debated on Thursday 4 February 2010


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there have been any breaches of security on the National Pupil Database; if so, how many; when; and by whom. [HL1433]

To ask Her Majesty's Government who will have access to the National Pupil Database; what they will use the information for; and how many people will have such access. [HL1434]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what will happen to information held on the National Pupil Database when a pupil leaves school; if any of it is archived, how long it will be held in that form; who will have access to the archive; and for what purposes. [HL1435]

The safety of personal information is of paramount importance to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). The department has stringent procedures in place to safeguard the security of data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) and there have been no breaches of security.

The National Pupil Database is held at the DCSF Darlington headquarters’ data warehouse on the DCSF internal network which is connected to the Government Secure Intranet (GSI). Access to the full database is limited to a small team of seven staff in DCSF’s Darlington office, which produces extracts from the NPD to support wider analytical work.

Individual pupil information from the NPD may be disclosed only to a “prescribed person” for specific purposes defined by the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) Regulations 2009. The data in the NPD may be shared with other government departments and agencies for these purposes. The DCSF may also disclose individual pupil information to independent researchers who have a legitimate need for it for their research, but each case will be determined on its merits and subject to the approval of the department’s chief statistician.

The data held in the NPD are used to inform, influence and improve education policy and to monitor the performance of the education service as a whole. For example, the NPD is used to calculate contextualised value added (CVA) to measure school effectiveness and is also used to compare pupils’ national curriculum assessment, GCSE and post-16 attainment by key pupil characteristics such as ethnic group, special educational needs status and free school meals eligibility to help set and measure national indicators and targets. The inclusion of postcode data allows for residency-based analyses to help target resources as effectively as possible; for example, matched data extracts are routinely provided to local authorities to help monitor indicators and targets and inform their funding formula.

The NPD is a longitudinal database and a valuable resource for research into educational achievement and participation. The information currently held allows for the tracking of pupil attainment at key stage 5 with their achievement back to key stage 1. Additionally, the NPD includes information about further education (FE) achievements and higher education (HE) entry data, matched to achievements at school. Our retention policy, including archiving data with the National Archive, is currently being developed as part of gaining accreditation to ISO 27001.