The Department is the main data controller responsible for the appropriate use of centrally held pupil data.
Before any data can be shared it has to go through a strict governance process. Officials, including legal experts and senior civil servants with data expertise, assess the application for public benefit, legal underpinning, proportionality (ensuring the minimum amount of data is used to meet the purpose), and that strict information security standards have been satisfied.
Commercial companies (such as those who provide systems that schools utilise to reflect and benchmark detailed areas of performance) may occasionally receive extracts of pupil data, subject to the strict governance and security measures in place. Similarly, if a suitably skilled researcher working for a media organisation can satisfy all aspects of the governance process, they may be able to undertake a research project.
The Department is working to provide ways for researchers to access centrally held data rather than distributing the data to them.
The Government publishes information about all of its data sharing as part of its commitment to transparency.