The National Pupil Database – where school census data ends up. Have you or your children been a pupil or student aged 2-19, since 1995?

Your personal, identifiable and sensitive data might be among the 20+ million and growing pupil records taken from schools in England since 2000, stored and given out by the Department for Education since 2012. Handed out for free to third parties, including commercial organisations like data management consultancies, think tanks, and “one-man shows”, as well as charities, Fleet Street and television journalists.

defenddigitalme is campaigning to make pupil data safe. Users should come to the data, not have raw identifiable data copied and sent out over 1795 times, as it has been between 2012 and 2016. There are better, safer ways of providing access to personal confidential data for research purposes. These will become requirements before May 2018 and many already are under existing law. We have campaigned and been involved in work over the last 18 months including the DfE led recent workshop to move pupil data towards safer, fair and consent based privacy preserving models of data management.

We believe children and parents should be informed, and have control over their own personal data, if and how they are stored and used in the National Pupil Database. It’s all part of improving children’s digital understanding.

The National Pupil Database is “one of the richest education datasets in the world” using records from every child in state education, and some independent schools.

Our research shows that schools, children and parents don’t know this database exists. Schools are not told about the onward distribution of personal data to third parties from the National Pupil Database. This must change.

For a longer introduction to the National Pupil Database, listen to the sound cloud of a presentation given by Phil Booth and Terri Dowty in 2012.

The Department for Education must:

  • Make pupil data safe
  • Stop giving out identifiable data to commercial third parties and press without consent
  • Start telling pupils and parents what it does with their identifiable data
  • Be transparent about policy and practice

The Department of Education must hold and handle the data it has taken from citizens in ways people could reasonably expect, transparently, and with respect.

This campaign also includes a call for full transparency and accountability for pupil data across other government departments, and across the education sector in England.

Ongoing campaign work includes opposing the Department for Education (DfE) school census expansion to collect nationality and country of birth data from every child, which began in September 2016, and any use of pupil data for non-educational purposes including immigration enforcement. We support the #BoycottSchoolCensus of nationality data collection. See our timeline of school census expansion for more details and What Can I Do to take action.


About Us

defenddigitalme is a non-profit non-partisan group led by parents with expertise in data privacy and data protection, freedom of information, biometrics-in-schools, and child rights; supported by a network of further privacy, data protection, child rights, and legal experts, and civil society campaigners.

We call for change in policy and practice at the Department for Education on the National Pupil Database and improvement in children’s data privacy and digital rights across the education sector in England, to make all children’s data safe, fair and transparent.

We welcome new supporters, just contact us here.

Jen Persson is Director of defenddigitalme, coordinating the current work. She can be contacted directly by Direct Message on Twitter via @TheABB or the campaign @defenddigitalme.

After running defenddigitalme on a voluntary basis for two years, the campaign was awarded an annual grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. in April 2017. Since then, defenddigitalme has been registered as a non-profit company limited by guarantee with charitable objects at Companies House and voluntarily on the ICO register of data controllers. There you can read how we process any personal data you give us. We welcome questions and calls from parents and pupils, or media, and will offer free support and advice in any the areas of our work, or direct you to others if we cannot.

We do not make use of any web tracking or profiling tools or track site visitors, however your own browser settings and cookies may track your site visit, beyond our control.



[1] updated on Feb 8th 2016 in response to a Freedom of Information request. The total number of Unique Pupil Numbers (UPNs) in the NPD as at 28/12/2015 was 19,807,973. This covers pupil records since 2000. We had previously been told 8-9 million.

[2] Higher Education data held in HESA databases dates from as far back as 1994.