School pupils’ details are being given away by the government

Selling their future: Michael Gove's Department for Education has put pupils' confidential information up for sale.
Selling their future: Michael Gove’s Department for Education has put pupils’ confidential information up for sale.

Thanks are due to the Vox Political reader who flagged up the fact that, while plans to sell British citizens’ health records and tax details are currently delayed or in consideration, confidential information about our children is already being passed on to private companies.

Researchers and third-party organisations can apply for detailed information from the national pupil database (NPD), covering pupils at schools and colleges in England.

This includes test and exam results, details of prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector, attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools, sixth-form and further education colleges, and information on pupils in independent schools, where available.

The database also includes information about pupils’ characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs (SEN), and pupil absence and exclusions.

Why would anyone want to use such information commercially?

Extracts of this data are available for use by any organisation or person who, “for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of children in England”, are conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, or providing information, advice or guidance. To whom?

The available data is arranged into ‘tiers’, as follows:

  • Tier 1 – the most sensitive personal information
  • Tier 2 – other sensitive personal information, including less sensitive versions of tier 1 data
  • Tier 3 – school-level data
  • Tier 4 – other pupil-level data, for example, attainment, absence and exclusions

Users can even request bespoke extracts, with a member of the NPD Data Request team on hand to advise on the approvals process, and whether the information requested is available.

The NPD is also linked to the further and higher education sectors, using data from the individualised learner record (ILR) and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) student record.

Users can request linked information in the following combinations:

  • NPD linked to ILR data
  • NPD linked to HESA student record
  • NPD linked to both ILR and HESA
  • Individualised learner record linked to HESA student record

You will not be consulted on whether you wish to allow your child’s information to be given away.

This means a huge amount of information about your children is now available to third parties and – considering the government guidance note from which this information is drawn is almost a month old – may already have been handed over.

Confidential information on – for example – exam and test results, special educational needs, absence and exclusions, and eligibility for free school meals could have a serious impact on a pupil’s prospects in adult life, if used to inform organisations that are hiring school leavers, for example.

There are safeguards. Organisations requesting information need to demonstrate that they comply with all relevant requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, including proving that they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office to process personal data or fall within an exemption, have appropriate security arrangements in place to process the data, intend to use the data only for a specified purpose, will keep the data only for a specified length of time, and will not share the data without our prior written approval.

Considering this government’s track record, how safe does that make you feel?

If you want to read the guidance note yourself, it may be found here.

Addendum: I’ve amended this article after Owen Boswarva contacted me to point out that the DfE isn’t, in fact, selling pupil information – the department is giving it away for free. In my opinion this makes its actions even worse. What do you think?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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27 Thoughts to “School pupils’ details are being given away by the government”

  1. OMG this is disgusting, I just can not believe they would stoop so low. Seems they are making lists of everyone lives. Its like they are taking control of everyone so they can do what they like with you. This is not a government its Nazism

  2. Graham Cord

    I bet these requests are not delayed, ignored or lost. Wonder how much the government earns from our details and what they waste it on?

  3. Mark Parry

    Wouldn’t surprise me with this boring lot abusing power by the hour.

  4. Graham Cord

    Anyone know where to find the price list for a bespoke information request about deaths while waiting for a reply?

  5. Chris K

    Well will the Tories start stealing and selling the cr*p out of peoples a**es? Can’t be too long to wait now?

  6. You mentioned that there are safeguards in place. Another safeguard is the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which looks specifically at a child’s biometrics data (specifically the algorithms of that data) being taken by a school and a third party without a child’s nor parents permission. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 covered this area as, until it was established, the protection afforded to children by the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act was sketchy at best. The following is taken from a website called Biometrics In Schools and looks at how the Protection of Freedoms Act assist in this anomaly in the law:

    In it Chapter 2 Protection of biometric information of children in schools etc. deals with schools processing children’s biometric data:

    Clauses 26-28:

    26. Requirement to notify and obtain consent before processing biometric information
    27. Exceptions and further provision about consent and notification
    28. Interpretation

    The salient points of the Act are:

    Each parent of the child should be notified by the relevant authority that they are planning to process their child’s biometrics and notified that they are able to object.
    In order for a school to process children’s biometrics at least one parent must consent and no parent has withdrawn consent. This needs to be in writing.
    The child can object to the processing of their biometrics regardless of parents consent.

    This became enforceable law in September 2013.

    1. So Michael Gove is in fact breaking a law that was made by the government to which he belongs?
      This is a new level of incompetence.

      1. Yep. But not surprising sadly.

      2. I don’t see anywhere on Gov.uk where it states a parents consent is not required but I did find this;
        The data held in the NPD is also used in a wide range of research including being
        linked, with consent, to a wide range of external datasets.
        and this
        The department will not disclose pupils’ and/or children’s personal information without
        consent unless the law allows it to do so, and it is in compliance with the Data Protection
        Act.
        The pupil level data held in the NPD is deemed ‘personal’ under the terms of the Data
        Protection Act 1998. The department has to make it clear to children and their parents
        what information is held about them, why it is held, the uses made of it by DfE and its
        partners. The department publishes a statement on its website setting out how the
        department processes pupils’ and children’s data.
        The law allows the department to share pupil data from the NPD with named bodies and
        third parties including schools, local authorities, other government departments and 15
        agencies under the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons)
        (England) Regulations 2009, as amended which I copied from here

        https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/261189/NPD_User_Guide.pdf

        Organisations such as Barnardos also use this kind of data. As a parent who has 2 school age kids this has me rattled but out of everything I’ve been reading it’s this that has me worried
        Bespoke extracts are available on request. A member of the NPD Data Request team will be able to advise on the approvals process, and whether the information requested is available.

  7. In the instance of my original message, a headteacher didn’t need to neither ask for permission from the parent nor the child, nor have to cease taking the biometric data been if the parent and child refused.

    The sad thing is that people are been told that the uses of this data and the reasons for collecting it, are for the smooth running of innocuous things such as school attendance and purchasing food at lunch time. This is nonsense. It has and always will be about control and until the public stop this, then we will continue to live in a more panoptic world.

  8. John Blackwillow

    One step closer to the Omni-Corp society. All data compiled and collated, analysed and disseminated, sold to those trying to sell you things you don’t need, but armed with personal data they can convince some that they do need these things, because without them, you’re out of the loop, a social outcast. As for the more nefarious use of the data, it could result in thousands of kids being written off before they have a chance to shine. Categorised and boxed-off, assigned a future over which they have little control, a predetermined end to a mediocre existence. Sounds fantastic or paranoid perhaps, but not if you look deeper, beyond the official version of the truth. No! Not for my children, I will fight to my last breath and beyond to prevent such a future from ever becoming a reaity. #REVOLUTION is the only option.

  9. NMac

    How long before they sell their own grandmothers, …or have they already done that?

  10. So much for protecting our young!
    Also, all this information being collected could lead to an awful lot of identity theft as I believe nothing is safe with these so called “data collectors”.

  11. Reblogged this on Jay's Journal and commented:
    Something to be watched…

  12. just teach your children not to be tempted or consume corporate products they dont need -(especially NOt ON CREDIT) that will be the best lesson they ever learn

    1. And now it has come to pass. Where are the civil liberties organisations?

  13. […] This week has seen media reports focussing on HMRC selling our tax records next, and the fact that children’s records are already sold; a fact parents were no doubt unaware of and certainly not consulted upon. It is therefore vitally […]

  14. And what will these records consist of? Teachers opinions? Ever have a teacher have it in for you at school? Why do they want these records? What do they plan to do with them? Will there be access to correct wrong/misleading entries? What are the safeguards ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands? Will it be the case that if you don’t score an A in the school propaganda class, your prospects as an adult will be terminated? Will this be followed by laws against home-schooling? Are teachers , teachers, or state police?
    And why does the state want our tax and medical records?

  15. Reblogged this on loopeyange and commented:
    I don’t see WHY the government feel there’s a need to share such information – AND – without parents/pupils consent or knowledge…..welcome to Bug Brother where EVERYONE is watched…..

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