The Director General for Regulation at the UK Statistics Authority [UKSA] has written to the Department for Education [DfE], calling for the Department to improve transparency and data handling of the National Pupil Database [letter dated, April 22, 2016].

The UK Statistics Authority has reviewed the DfE handling of the National Pupil Database and recommended:

1. more transparency through frequent and regular publication of the third parties who are getting given pupils’  personal data, and more detail on the reasons for its release and volume of data released (the DB has nearly 20 million individuals’ named records)

2. more transparent arrangements for ensuring the secure handling and end of project functions of NPD data such as data retention and destruction

The Director General for Regulation, Ed Humpherson writes that the DfE has made a commitment to the UKSA to improve the information that they send to schools so that schools in turn can provide parents and pupils how their children’s data will be shared with the DfE and by the DfE onwardly to other third parties.

The DfE in accepting changes need made, clearly recognises there are grave weaknesses in their current fair processing.

The DfE gives out 20 million children’s confidential personal data directly to unaccredited third parties without the consent of parents or pupils. The processes must be tightened and parents must be told who has their children’s personal data, and why.

The DfE has to turn words into action very soon for schools to have time to make parents aware of what the Department for Education is doing and the third parties that are given their children’s personal data from the DfE before upcoming intra-school data transfers and new intake for September 2016.

As regards handling of data, we are also pleased that the Statistics Authority draws attention to the need for improvement in the current sloppy practices of dealing with data after it is given away by the Department for Education.

No audit of the 500+ recipients of confidential data had ever been carried out by the DfE when we asked via Freedom of Information in 2015, the DfE “not having needed to exercise this power to date.”

It is clear that without independent audit no one knows whether the recipients are handling data well or who might be selling it, losing it, or not ever deleting it. In 2015 The Telegraph was overdue confirming whether it had deleted the data of millions of children it received over 2 years earlier.

The transparency, and handling processes for the National Pupil Database needs urgent attention.

We welcome that The UK Statistics Authority has made these strong recommendations, and that they will continue to monitor the Department for Education’s implementation and communication of improvements.

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