Sunday, August 06, 2006

#2 The National Pupil Database

In 1997, the Government came to power with three stated priorities: education, crime and ‘modernisation’. In education, they identified a need to ‘drive up standards’ in order to ensure that the workforce was sufficiently skilled to meet the challenges presented by developments in information technology and the new ‘knowledge economy’. The first two databases we're going to deal with are concerned with this priority.

SCHOOL CENSUS and NATIONAL PUPIL DATABASE:
The 1996 Education Act (s537) empowered the government to collect information about pupils directly from schools; however, this specifically could not include the name of any pupil. Since then, a series of amendments and regulations has changed that situation to enable, since 2000, a regular ‘pupil level’ (ie. individual) census of every pupil in a state-maintained school; the range of information collected has also increased incrementally.

In particular, the
School Standards and Framework Act 1998 schedule 30 para.153 allows the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations the data to be collected, and the people or bodies with whom it may be shared. [More information about the series of regulations that has since followed can be found by searching on ‘Education (Information about Individual Pupils) (England) Regulations’ – there is too much to list here.]

Because the legislation says that schools must supply the data (a ‘statutory duty’ - which provides an exception to certain requirements of the Data Protection Act) parents and children are nor asked for consent, nor informed that it is taking place. Once collected, the information is held on the National Pupil Database (NPD) and at the moment is principally used statistically or for research. LEAs can also obtain information that relates to pupils in their area.

Capita, who carry out the census on behalf of the DfES, takes information directly from each school’s system on the dates prescribed by DfES. Until this year, the census was held annually in Jan/Feb (the Pupil Level Annual School Census or PLASC), but from 2006 it will be a termly census in secondary schools; primary schools will follow suit next year.


This year the census has also been extended to include nursery schools; from 2007 it is intended to take information from all childminders, private nurseries and playgroups. The full list of more than 40 individual-level data items, and more detailed information about the census can be found here.

The NPD has fairly recently been expanded to incorporate the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority database, which holds the records of key stage tests and public exams, and other information formerly held on other systems about attendance and exclusion. It remains to be seen whether use of the data will gradually increase, as eg this TES
article seems to suggest it may.

Data held on the NPD will not be deleted, as this
Parliamentary Written Answer (PWA) makes clear:

"The Department does not intend to delete the records of pupils who leave the maintained schools sector, either at age 16 or 18, or before then."

7 Comments:

At Mon Sep 11, 06:20:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do we find out what the list of information is to include?

 
At Mon Sep 11, 08:32:00 AM, Blogger archrights said...

The full list is included in this document: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/_doc/9361/School%20Census%20Preparation%20and%20Guidance%202006%20Version%201.1doc.doc

 
At Mon Sep 11, 08:34:00 AM, Blogger archrights said...

Should have said: if that link is too long to work properly, go to

http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/docbank/index.cfm?id=9361

and click on the MSWord link top left

 
At Mon Sep 18, 05:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A slight error in the above text. Capita do-not carry out PLASC they only supply database software. Local authorities gather the information before it is passed to the DfES.

 
At Mon Sep 18, 06:06:00 AM, Blogger archrights said...

Thanks very much for the clarification

 
At Sun Oct 01, 05:41:00 AM, Blogger Shutter said...

The role of Capita in using the fingerprint software for children's T & A records from the UK arm of General Dynamics is well worth looking at.

http://postmanpatel.blogspot.com/2006/09/totally-secure-how-do-you-feel.html

 
At Sun Oct 01, 06:32:00 AM, Blogger archrights said...

@postman: feeling rather gobsmacked by some of the things on your blog. No matter how much we research, there's always another layer - it's like peeling a giant onion!

 

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