News / edTech National Pupil Database

Summer 2019 report card

As we approach the summer holidays, we welcome a new Secretary of State.

Here are some of our work and news highlights from this summer term. We wish everyone a restful break while we’re getting ready for a new academic year ahead. And if today’s news, government voting record and direction of travel on human rights, give you concern, please consider supporting us, and fellow civil society organisations.

In the news

Higher Education was in the news in June, when the Office for Students and others published plans for universities to trawl through students’ social media to look for suicide risk, among new projects together with Jisc. Their approach came in for appropriately robust criticism on social media, and they went on to delete their tweet on ‘harvesting’ data seeming to have learned nothing from Samaritans Radar fiasco.

Hessen in Germany’s regulatory authority decision this month could be far reaching for secondary and primary schools. They found that cloud solutions, in particular Microsoft but including Google, Apple [and others] sending school children’s personal data outside the German GDPR jurisdiction is unlawful. We agree with their opinion, that processing is opaque and data trails are not explained in ways that can be understood. Schools cannot demonstrate compliance as a result.

Swiss authorities are also reviewing the legality of Google in the classroom. We’ll watch those spaces for further implications for the UK.

This work will continue into the new academic year, 2019-20.

National data from SATs and scores

SATs and scores that last a lifetime were in the news on and off again this term. We responded to the now former Minister’s article, with a letter to the Telegraph about primary school testing, pointing out that while he compared the tests to an NHS check, patients can opt out of re-use of their confidential records by companies and other third parties. Pupils cannot.

We have raised concerns about the government guidanceChanges to assessments in primary schools‘ on the Reception Baseline Assessment. There are big gaps in the Data Protection Impact Assessment behind the Baseline Test and we have called for answers and safeguards on how 4 year old’s personal data will be linked for life, and used from the National Pupil Database.

We still advise schools to steer clear of the Multiplication Tables Check (MTC) pilot, with its ‘just arrived with EAL’ indicator’. As long as the Home Office gets monthly data from national pupil data, this data poses a risk. It appears that in the ever expanding accountability regime, there is ever less accountability from national bodies. There was completely inadequate assessment of necessity and risk, and these were not explained in the guidance to schools.

Regulatory action

We keenly await the ICO decision on the retention of nationality and country-of-birth data collected between October 2016 and June 2018 from nearly ten million children age 5-18. We continue to support families’ concerns. Here’s a reminder of some of the history and final moments of a scandalous school children’s data collection that should never have been.

We will have filed three requests for assessment or complaints to the Office of the Information Commissioner by the end of this quarter of 2019.

And we continue our challenge of the Department through strategic litigation, on the failure to fairly communicate the uses of National Pupil Database and Alternative Provision School Censuses while giving away 21 million individuals’ personal data for re-use. You can help here.


With new Ministers all round at Education, DCMS and the Home Office the balls are all up in the air once again. The implications remain to be seen for the Online Harms legislation, and Age Appropriate Code of Practice; edTech strategy, and data policies across the education sector; as well as the use of children’s data from education and schools in policing and in new national databases in development.

The new Minister at the Department for Education may need to deal with some of these national data issues from day one.

This quarter we submitted responses to the second stage of consultation on the ICO Age Appropriate Code of Practice and the Online Harms White Paper, as well as the Joint Committee on Human Rights Committee enquiry on the Right to Privacy (Article 8) and the Digital Revolution. Following those, came the National Data Strategy, and last but not least, a call for views by the CDEI on algorithmic bias in public authorities.

Our evidence submitted on ‘Digital Government’ to the Science and Technology Select Committee enquiry on public sector data processing, was mentioned in the evidence session in January, and published recently.

The ICO strategies until 2021 include work on a data sharing code of practice. Consultation closes on September 9th.


Our Directors have presented at various events, including having had the honour of addressing the Council of Europe Committee of Convention 108, in Strasbourg at the 39th plenary, [slides, .pdf 10MB] and we thoroughly enjoyed talking with London students in the UCL Active Citizenship Programme, who went on to make two short films on Digital Activism around children’s and student rights.

New Partners and Support Structures

We are thrilled to look forward to the support of our new Advisory Council. More to announce in September.

We’ve also begun work with the brilliant youth centre, The Warren, in Hull, and are excited to be supporting them in the making a film for September, which will be first shown at a UNICEF led event in September at the MyData 2019 conference.

Get involved

Get in touch if you want to be involved in independent academic research on how safeguarding in schools systems work, in situ. This will contribute to the coming review of the Prevent programme starting this autumn.

We’re grateful to all our volunteers this term, who’ve done some brilliant support and research work, and we always welcome new offers.

What’s next?

We need more than ever to hold power to account and reimagine a rights’ respecting world, with a sense of urgency. Who’ll protect children’s rights as we leave the EU? Children cannot afford to wait for policy makers and practitioners to get their act together on making children’s data safe, fair and transparent across the education sector and its wider sharing into the public sector, and with commercial companies.

The next academic year will undoubtedly be as busy. as this one and we hope to start to see more regulatory action and real change. Until we start back in September, happy holidays everyone.