School Workforce data

IFS researchers sometimes use extracts from the School Workforce (SWF) database

As part of their research on the UK education system, IFS researchers sometimes use extracts from the School Workforce (SWF) database.

The Data

The UK Department for Education (DfE) collects data on its school workforce through an annual school workforce census:

The SWF data covers teachers, teaching assistants, and other non-classroom based school support staff. It includes personal data on teachers’ characteristics (gender, age, qualification, etc), and their employment details (school, pay, hours worked, absences, etc).

The DfE shares de-identified extracts from the SWF database with researchers with a legitimate purpose. The data extracts are stored on the ONS’s Secure Research Service (SRS), a dedicated facility that enables secure storage and remote manipulation of unpublished, de-identified data. 

What we use the data for

We use SWF data to investigate certain aspects of the labour market for teachers, and how the functioning of this market contributes to the efficacy and equity of the school system in England. We are particularly interested in estimating teachers’ preferences over the characteristics of secondary schools. It is often reported that schools located in disadvantaged areas struggle to recruit teachers with the required levels of qualification and experience, which indicates that teacher may dislike working for such schools. We are aiming to use econometric techniques to identify and estimate the nature of these preferences. This research can inform important policy questions, for example the calibration of the pupil premium or the National Funding Formula for schools.

Our processing of SWF data involves the creation of summary statistics and the estimation of structural models of the school system in England using econometric techniques. We are committed to publishing the results from our research on our website.

How long will we keep the data?

The data extract used by the IFS are stored on the ONS’s SRS for the duration of the project. This is typically three years. The data is then deleted by the ONS.

How do we take care of your data?

Access to SWF data is restricted and tightly controlled. Applications to use the data are strictly vetted by the 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 SWF 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.

Legal bases for using the data

Our lawful basis for processing these data is: legitimate interest, section 6(1)(f) of the GDPR. 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) of the GDPR: 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 protected].  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 protected] or write to them at the above address.