The State of Data 2020

Mapping a child’s digital footprint in the state education landscape in England

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New defenddigitalme #StateOfData2020 report argues children have lost control of their digital footprint in state #education by their fifth birthday. Calls for new oversight. #edtech #schools
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In its new report #StateOfData2020 defenddigitalme says data protection law alone is inadequate to protect children’s rights and freedoms across the state #education sector in England. #edTech #RemoteLearning #data #privacy
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Imagine England’s school system as a giant org chart. What do you see? Now add to that the world you cannot see. Watch the animation @defenddigitalme and read the #StateOfData2020 report calling for new law on children's digital rights in #education
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Printed copies of part one available via post on request.[contact us here]


Children have lost control of their digital footprint by their fifth birthday from being in state education.

The Government must introduce law and a national data guardian to protect children's rights in the digital landscape in education, according to new research and a report from defenddigitalme.

The report, maps children's digital footprint across the education landscape age 0-19 including the transition year into Higher Education.

It argues that core national education infrastructure delivered by the private sector must be put on the national risk register as its fragility has been demonstrated in the COVID-19 crisis and rush to remote learning.

defenddigitalme calls for urgent action to protect the state sector education system from future loss of control to the tech giants and the majority owners in the edTech global market, China and the U.S. and the loss of children's autonomy to control their data as a result.

And in the aftermath of the exams 2020 awarding chaos, and ongoing coronavirus crisis, defend digital me argues that the Department for Education should place a moratorium on the school accountability system and league tables while an assessment is carried out on fitness for purpose. Pupil data will continue to be affected by COVID-19, making comparable outcomes and competitive measures meaningless and misleading. We call for a pause on the Early Years attainment profile, Phonics and Key Stage SATS and argue that the Reception Baseline Test is not fit for purpose and should be stopped indefinitely, alongside the Multiplications Times Tables Check.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has just published the outcome of a compulsory and wide-ranging audit of the Department for Education (DFE) undertaken in response to our complaint on the handling of national pupil data. The audit found that data protection was not being prioritised and this had severely impacted the DfE's ability to comply with the UK's data protection laws.

defenddigitalme argues that three futures need to be championed and must be made compatible in a long term vision for a rights' respecting environment in state education. The rights of every child to education and promotion of their fullest development and human flourishing, the purpose and value of learning and education for society and its delivery, and the edTech sector's aspirations and its place in the UK economy and in export.

The government must build the legal and practical mechanisms for families to be able to realise rights across the child's lifetime and beyond the school gate, if the UK government is to promote all three, including support for school staff in due diligence and procurement, rights management and changes in the standards applied to research trials in educational settings.

defend digital me makes recommendations on ten topics:

  1. Legislation and statutory duties
  2. Assessment, Attainment, Accountability and Profiling
  3. Admin data collections and national datasets
  4. Principles and practice using technology today
  5. EdTech evidence, efficacy, ethics, exports and engagement
  6. Children's rights in a digital environment
  7. Local data processing
  8. Higher Education
  9. Research
  10. Enforcement

And calls for urgent attention and action in key areas across the educational sector:

  1. Access and inclusion: Accessibility design standards, Internet access and funding
  2. Data cycle control, accountability and security: mechanisms are needed by industry and schools for lifetime data management including when children leave schools and leave education, and that restore lifetime controllership to educational settings
  3. Data rights' management: A consistent rights-based framework and mechanisms to realise children's rights is needed between the child / family and players in each data process; schools, LAs, the DfE, companies, and other third-parties for consistent, confident data handling; right to information, accuracy, controls and objections.
  4. Human roles and responsibilities: The roles of school staff, parents/ families and children need boundaries redrawn to clarify responsibilities, reach of cloud services into family life, representation; including teacher training (initial and continuous professional development)
  5. Industry expectations: normalised poor practice should be reset, ending exploitative practice or encroachment on classroom time; for safe, ethical product development and SME growth
  6. Lifetime effects of data on the developing child: The permanency of the single pupil record
  7. Machine fairness: Automated decisions, profiling, AI and algorithmic discrimination
  8. National data strategy: The role of education data in the national data strategy and the implications of changes needed in the accountability and assessment systems
  9. Procurement routes and due diligence: Reduce the investigative burden for schools in new technology introductions and increase the independent, qualified expert support systems that schools can call on, benefiting from scaled cost saving, and free from conflict of interest
  10. Risk management of education delivery: Education infrastructure must be placed on the national risk register, reducing reliance on Silicon Valley tech giants and increasing transparency over future costs, practice, and ensuring long-term stability for the public sector.

With a foreword from Baroness Beeban Kidron, Chair, 5Rights Foundation

The State of Data Report provides a snapshot of the uses and abuses of children's data in school. Its rich findings will be of great help in tackling the inequities and intrusions that children suffer. Robust data privacy protections in schools and educational settings are urgently needed. School is not optional for children and therefore the harvesting of their data must not be compulsory. A child's gait, their visits to the bathroom, their exam results, their parents' immigration status and their visits to the school counsellors must not be available to third parties, nor should companies be allowed to claim educational benefits that are unproven nor be able to impact on young people's educational outcomes without meeting minimum standards that ensure their products are fit for use. This comprehensive report deserves close reading by all those concerned with children's privacy and security. Ministers and officials in the Department of Education and government would do well to consider its detailed recommendations that reveal both a gross injustice for an entire generation of children, and usefully signpost the way forward.

Report author and defenddigitalme Founder, Jen Persson, said

We need to move towards a better data rights management framework if families are ever going to take back control of their children's rights in the education system. Data protection law fails to take into account the full range of rights that need protection in the digital environment and at the moment it's all about enabling passing children's personal data to third parties far beyond parents' expectations and what is fair. Privacy isn't only a tool to protect individuals' lives, their human dignity and their future selves. Access to children's data is the gateway to the control of the entire state education system itself. That knowledge is produced today for free by the teachers and children who spend time administering and working in these digital systems owned by companies around the world with over 40% of edTech funding from China and the same from the U.S. We need to get far more transparency from companies over their business models and future plans for freeware and the stability and security of the state education system.

The State of Data 2020 Event

Twenty presentations and panel discussions accompany the launch of our report, The State of Data 2020: mapping the data landscape in England’s state education system. Each talk was presented on September 29-30 and draws out a specialist theme from the report. Each is open access and free to view from our accompanying event page.

Read the Report Part 1