National Pupil Database

IFS researchers sometimes use the National Pupil Database

As part of their research on the determinants and effectiveness of educational investments, IFS researchers sometimes use the National Pupil Database (NPD)

The data

The data contain information on the educational experience of all pupils in state schools across England.  In its entirety it includes information on topics such as attainment, absence, exclusions, special educational needs and ethnicity. The data are collected by the Department for Education, which uses the information to help it run the school system in England.

The NPD can also be linked to other datasets, including other administrative data Higher Education Statistics Agency data (HESA), HMRC earning data and DWP data on benefits, as well as to survey data such as the Millennium Cohort Study.

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. 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

Work using the NPD aims to investigate the determinants and effectiveness of educational investments, from early childcare and pre-school education, through to primary and secondary schools, post-compulsory schooling, higher education and adult learning. For example, we have done research on school quality and the long-term impact of school starting age on academic achievements and skill formation.

We use the NPD data to evaluate the impact that specific interventions (for example, breakfast clubs) have on academic attainment. We also use these attainment measures as one of a set of outcomes when evaluating larger programmes (such as Sure Start or the free entitlement to childcare). The NPD also provides a rich set of control variables to help establish a baseline to measure, for example, the role of higher education in raising earnings. Finally, links between the NPD and other datasets (such as the Millennium Cohort Study) facilitate more basic research that seeks to understand how children develop more broadly.

In some cases, processing of the NPD involves the entire population of successive cohorts, for example looking at all Key Stage 2 results over a 10-year period. In other cases, we process the NPD records of only a subset of students. These data are sometimes linked (by DfE) to other data we have collected, for example surveys from participants in a research evaluation.

Processing of NPD data includes:

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

How long will we keep the data?

Up until May 2018, DfE made the NPD available by transferring data for us to store securely on our own servers. This system is being phased out and for any new projects since May 2018, data is made available via via the ONS’s Secure Research Service. Data that we hold directly on our server will be securely deleted as projects come to an end.

Data that are made available via the ONS’s Secure Research Service are are stored therefor the duration of a research project. This is typically two years but extensions are given when necessary in order to complete longer-term projects.

How do we take care of your data?

Access to these data is restricted and tightly controlled. Applications to use the data are strictly vetted by the Department for Education (DfE) and any researchers have to be approved via the ONS’s Approved Researcher Scheme . Individual researchers are also vetted by the DfE, which among other requirements conducts a criminal record check on all researchers using the NPD data.

We ensure that all our researchers who use these data receive training on how to use the data safely. 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.

Access to any data that we store on our own servers (from projects that began before May 2018) is also 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.

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 health and/or 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 the Department for Education @email.  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

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.