I am today launching a public consultation on proposals to amend the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) (England) Regulations 2009 to enable the Department for Education to share extracts of data held in the National Pupil Database for a wider range of purposes than currently possible in order to maximise the value of this rich dataset.
The National Pupil Database holds one of the richest educational datasets in the world and forms a significant part of the education evidence base. It is a longitudinal database which holds information on children in schools in England. This includes pupil level data relating to school attended, teacher assessments, test and exam results by subject, prior attainment, progression and pupil characteristics.
We have already significantly expanded the content of school performance tables for primary and secondary schools and were commended in the National Audit Office report “Implementing Transparency” (April 2012) for opening up access to our data. Recently, we have also improved the application arrangements for requesting access to data from the National Pupil Database under our existing regulations for those who need pupil level data for research purposes.
However, we are aware that the existing Prescribed Persons Regulations may prevent some potentially beneficial uses of the data by third-party organisations, as use is currently restricted to “research into educational achievement”. For example, we have had to reject requests to use the data for analysis on sexual exploitation, the impact on the environment of school transport, and demographic modelling, all of which seem to be legitimate and fruitful areas for further research.
We want to give organisations greater freedom to use extracts of the data for wider purposes, while still ensuring its confidentiality and security. Existing arrangements for access to the data would apply to all future requests: all requests to access extracts of data would go through a robust approval process and successful organisations would be subject to strict terms and conditions covering their handling and use of the data, including having appropriate security arrangements in place. Organisations granted access would need to comply with the Data Protection Act, and any reports, statistical tables, or other products published or released, would need to fully protect the identity of individuals.
Amending these regulations should encourage more organisations to use the data for wider research, such as socio-economic analysis, or research into equality issues, including disability, gender or race. It could also help stimulate the market for innovative tools and services which present anonymised versions of the data.
If, having listened to the views expressed in the public consultation and subject to the will of the House, I decide to proceed with the proposed amendments, I expect the revised regulations to come into force in spring 2013.
The public consultation on this proposal will commence today and run for six weeks. A consultation document containing full details of this proposal and how interested parties can respond to the consultation will be published on the Department for Education website. Copies of that document will also be placed in the House Libraries.