Government offers school pupil data to private companies

Olivia Solon writes in Wired:

Data relating to every school pupil in England is now available for use by private companies thanks to a change in legislation implemented last year.

The move is part of a wider government initiative to “marketise” data, which includes initiatives such as the much-criticised and the selling off of taxpayer data by HMRC.

Education Secretary Michael Gove launched a public consultation back in November 2012 on proposal to let the Department for Education share extracts from the National Pupil Database “for a wider range of purposes than currently possible” to “maximise the value of this rich dataset”.

The National Pupil Database (NPD) contains detailed information about pupils in schools and colleges in England, including test and exam results, progression at each key stage, gender, ethnicity, pupil absence and exclusions, special educational needs, first language.

The data have been collected since around 2002 and is now one of the richest education datasets in the world, holding what the government says is “a wide range of information about pupils and students” at different phases.

Extracts of the data are available for use by “any organisation or person who, for the purpose of promoting the education or wellbeing of children in England are: conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, providing information, advice or guidance.” Bespoke extracts are also available on request.

This might all seem quite non-controversial, but in light of stories about healthcare data misuse there may be some cause for concern.

One thought on “Government offers school pupil data to private companies

  1. Tom Welsh says:

    Surely the key question is whether this data is completely anonymized. If any information about an individual can be extracted – by any means whatever – the data must not be sold.

    In any case, the whole idea of selling information about citizens, gathered by government supposedly in the course of providing public services, is morally wrong.

    Government continually spends more and more money, as parties desperately vie to (apparently) provide more bread and circuses. The time has come, some time ago, when taxation was utterly unable to meet these costs. Nowadays our rulers are willing and eager to borrow every penny they can, to sell the family silver, and even to betray our personal details to their money-grubbing corporate pals.

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