Local Authority data on Sure Start children centres usage

IFS researchers sometimes use data on attendance at Sure Start children centres.

As part of their research on the effectiveness of early years policies, IFS researchers sometimes use data on attendance at Sure Start children centres, held by local authorities.

The data

Many local authorities hold historical records of usage of Sure Start children centres in Management Information Systems. These records contain information at child level on children attending Sure Start centres in the local authority on a given day as well as information about what activities or services they accessed and characteristics of the children.

In total, these datasets contain children’s personal information (name, address, date of birth), characteristics (gender and ethnicity) and which services children attended, at which centre and on which day. This data was collected by local authorities to help with the delivery of Sure Start services and programmes.

We use extracts from these data depending on which information we need to carry out our research. We do not receive any directly identifying information about you such as your name or address. We also never access personal information, such as names, full address and full date of birth. However, because the data we use is sometimes very detailed, there is a small risk that you could be identified which is why your data are protected by law. To reduce this risk, we carry out data minimisation. This means that is we only request and receive the information that we need to carry out our research. Different research questions use different extracts of data to ensure that we only access data that is strictly necessary for the purpose in question, and all access to the data is strictly limited to the named researchers working on that research project.

What we use the data for

Research using local authority Sure Start attendance data aims to shed light on which activities took place in Sure Start centres and attendance patterns among different groups of children. This complements other strands of work that investigate the impact of Sure Start on children’s outcomes as it provides insight into the potential mechanisms behind positive effects. We process the records of only a subset of children – those who attended Sure Start during its main expansion period (from around 2000 to 2010).

Processing of local authority Sure Start attendance data includes:

  • Creating summary statistics
  • Using statistical techniques and modelling to answer research questions

How long will we keep the data?

Local authority Sure Start attendance data is retained for the duration of a research project with the exact length decided by the local authority we receive data from. Typically, this is between 5 and 10 years, the amount of time required to undertake long-term projects and to allow for re-analysis and submission to academic journals.

How do we take care of your data?

Data is stored securely at IFS premises in an encrypted folder on their secure network and is very tightly controlled. All researchers are vetted and trained and access is restricted only to those researchers working on the project. In addition, IFS has external accreditation in data security – we are compliant with ISO27001:2013 and we are Cyber Essentials certified.

We ensure that all our researchers who use these data receive training on how to use the data safely and researchers hold ‘Accredited Researcher’ status within the UK Data Service’s Secure Lab. Only approved researchers working on projects that have been deemed to have public benefit are able to use the data, and they can only use it to answer specific research questions that have been approved in advance. We will only ever publish non-disclosive outputs, which means that it will be impossible to identify you from anything that is published.

Legal bases for using the data

Our lawful basis for processing these data is: legitimate interest, section 6(1)(f). We have a legitimate interest in conducting non-commercial, robust social and economic research to inform research and policy.

Because these data sometimes contain information about your ethnicity, they are classed as Special Category data. Our lawful basis for processing this special category data is:

Article 9(2)j processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes

Your rights

This webpage is designed to inform you how we are using your data.

Because we cannot identify you and we do not have direct control over the data, it is not possible for us to process other requests in respect of your rights. If you would like to exercise any of your rights please contact your local authority early help team.  They will deal with your request and any outcome of your request will be passed on to us by them.

If you have complaint you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/your-personal-information-concerns/

Our contact details

If you wish to discuss the way that we use your data, please contact Sarah Cattan [email protected] or you can write to her at

The Institute for Fiscal Studies
7 Ridgmount Street

If you have concerns over the way that we use your data please contact the data protection officer you should email @email or write to them at the above address.