Did you know the Department for Education is collecting every child in England’s country of birth and nationality in a national pupil database from autumn 2016?

For Parents, Guardians and Pupils

If you have children in school, or are under 19, in England and some of schools in border areas with Wales, this new census collection will affect you. See our latest summary here or read recent coverage. If you have concerns you may want to take action:

  • You should speak to your school first, we realise this is difficult for some and that many schools are not well informed themselves.
  • You can choose to withhold your child’s country-of-birth and nationality data, as well as ethnicity. You can ask to use the refused code, but schools may also be leaving the default not yet obtained.
  • You can ask your school in the usual way, to updated information you provided previously
  • You can send us blank copies of your school’s request for data.
  • Support the #boycottthecensus campaign by Against Borders for Children.
  • Write to your MP before October 30th, asking them to request support from the Lords in the debate on the 31st

The new law needs scrapped and safeguards need written into legislation that all school census data are only to be used for the purposes parents expect when they entrust their children’s and their own personal data to schools.

For Schools and Early Years providers

We are recommending that schools should leave the default ‘not yet obtained’ for country-of-birth until there are more answers what this data will be used for and with what safeguards. These new data items are not required for funding. The Lords in answers to questions on October 12th 2016 confirmed there will be no sanction on schools or parents who choose to wiithhold these data.

Our key concerns are around how the law was introduced with vague purposes for unclear cost and benefit, expanding the pupil data collection without clear purposes or necessity and that pupils and parents are not being told what data are going to be used for and by whom. Third party and commercial use for example, is not explained.

We also believe past use by the Home Office of data in the National Pupil Database breaches schools’ parental and children’s trust which is now paramount. This new policy intent needs close scrutiny.

The National Pupil Database – where school census data ends up. Have you or your children been a pupil or student aged 2-19, since 1994?

Your personal, identifiable and sensitive data might be among the nearly 20 million pupil records [1] taken from schools in England since 2000 [2], stored and given out by the Department for Education since 2012 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. We have asked the Department for clarity on what happens to pupils from Wales school census data.

defenddigitalme is campaigning to make pupil data safe.

We believe children and parents should be informed, and have control over their own personal data, and if they are stored and used in the National Pupil Database.

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.

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.

defenddigitalme is a non-profit run by volunteer parents, with support from legal, privacy, and data protection experts. We welcome new supporters, just contact us here.

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.


[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.