News / National Pupil Database

Schools must collect extra census data for children from autumn

Where was your child born? What nationality is your child? What language(s) do they speak?

These are not new questions that will be asked at border control from September, but what parents are being told to submit to schools in response to the Department for Education demand for three NEW additional pieces of personal data from the autumn 2016 school census. These data will then be extracted into the National Pupil Database.

We have prepared a summary of the changes, including questions and concerns received from teaching staff and parents.

The support guide for staff, suggests checking based on passport or ID card although ‘not required’. [Items 5.3.2 – 5.5.5]

“Pupil nationality would be expected to appear on – or be derived from – the passport or European economic area (EEA) identity card. However, there is no requirement for the school to see a copy of the passport or identity card.”

This latest step to collect more personal data on children – country of birth and nationality on an individual level – and suck it into the National Pupil Database to be given away to unaccredited researchers, unqualified third party outsiders, is a gaping security risk and an ill thought out idea, with potentially damaging consequences for individuals and groups.

According to the census guide, parents do not have to provide the information if they choose not to and schools can record the information as “refused”, “not known” or “not yet obtained”.
This is very important for schools to pay attention to. It is the first time pupils and parents appear to being given the right to opt out of any census data collection, using the term from the DfE guide, “refused”. [p65] But how this works in practice is unclear.
Schools will need to communicate this opt out choice very clearly in their new privacy notices to collect and process these data legally and fairly.
We are concerned it could be confusing for schools and parents why some data is compulsory and not others, and that the purposes are not being adequately explained as the forms we have seen talk only of requiring the data for funding decisions.
When the DfE applied to make the change it said it “may” be used to facilitate the “targeting of support to such pupils” and will “assist in the identification of such pupils”.

We are asking for clarification on what is required, optional and its communication.

The information about pupils’ nationality will come in addition to a new measure also being introduced this autumn, which will ask schools to assess how good at English are those pupils classed as “having English as an additional language”, on a five-point scale.
However English as a foreign language data are already collected by schools, and used in funding. What role country of birth or nationality will play in calculating funding is unclear.
We have asked the Department to tell us who will have access to the data, the limited purposes it is collected for, to confirm what communications schools are expected to make to parents to explain the opt out.
The census takes place three times a year – once every term. In the next school year, the census will be carried out on October 6, 2016, January 19, 2017, and May 18, 2017.