About this wiki

These wiki pages provide information on the National Pupil Database in England for end-users of the data in the research community. The pages have been developed and maintained on a voluntary basis by PLUG, the PLASC/NPD users' group. Dr Rebecca Allen at the Institute of Education, University of London, is currently responsible for overseeing this wiki. You can learn more abut how to contribute to the wiki on this page. The site will never be a complete and comprehensive guide to the data because NPD changes as each new sweep of data is released. So, new contributors are always most welcome and should email Rebecca Allen to ask for an invitation to register.


About NPD

The National Pupil Database (NPD) is a pupil level database which matches pupil and school characteristic data to pupil level attainment. In 2006-07 the School Census replaced the Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) which is the key source of data for individual pupil characteristics. This dataset includes variables previously unavailable in other datasets including ethnicity, a low-income marker, special education needs (SEN), attendance, exclusions and a history of schools attended. Pupils’ Key Stage attainment records can also be accessed.

The NPD has a number of key features. First, the fact that it is a census dataset containing the population of all pupils in state schools is very helpful for a number of different analyses compared to a dataset based on a sample of schools. For example, pupils can be tracked across schools. Second, it is longitudinal, and pupils can now be followed throughout their school careers. Third, it provides a very rich set of data on school characteristics. As it is a census, this includes details of the peer group (the school-cohort) of any particular child. Fourth, there is scope for linking the data from other related datasets such as those on higher education, neighbourhoods and teachers in schools.

What types of schools and pupils are included in the Census?

The School Census covers nursery, primary, middle, secondary and special schools. Secondary schools include middle deemed secondary schools, City Technology Colleges (CTCs) and academies, nursery schools include both maintained and direct grant nursery schools and special schools including both maintained and non-maintained special schools and hospital special schools. It provides information on all pupils in state schools in England, linked to their schools, as they progress through primary and secondary school. Attainment data, but not pupil characteristics are available for non-maintained schools.

The Census includes all pupils who are registered at the school and who should have a current record on the school’s Management Information System (MIS) at the school on the census day. However, there are also particular cases where records are required for pupils no longer on roll (e.g. where they have been excluded and subsequently left the school prior to census day).

Further details on the variables included and use of the dataset can be found at: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/plug/

The timings of the data sweeps

Before 2006 the pupil and school characteristics were collected annually (PLASC). In 2006, secondary schools (maintained secondary schools, city technology collegesand academies) moved from the annual collection of PLASC to a termly collection cycle (three times a year – spring, summer and autumn) as part of the School
Census (SC). Each term's data collection is slightly different. The main census is the Spring Census, taken in January, that can be linked with the annual data provided by PLASC. For the 2005/06 school year, secondary schools also provided information on fixed period exclusions and the reasons for exclusion alongside the standard information they provided on permanent exclusions. In 2007, primary, nursary and special schools also moved across from PLASC to the termly School Census collection. So for the 2006/07 school year onwards, information on permanent and fixed period exclusions as well as the reasons for exclusion is available for primary, secondary and special schools. The cohorts are structured to stand alone on the information they contain, however it is also linked using a unique identifier for each pupil which can be back tracked to previous records for each pupil.

Data release schedule

The attainment data of the students are collected at the end of each Key Stage (these are given in detail in "The structure of the cohorts").
The typical NPD release schedule is as follows:
Reference
Release Date
Early Years Foundation Stage Profile


One version
Oct
Key Stage 1


Version 1
Sep

Version 2
Feb
Key Stage 2


Unamended
Sep

Final
Mar
Key Stage 3


Version 1
Aug

Version 2
Jan
Key Stage 4


Unamended
Oct

Final
Apr
Key Stage 5


Unamended
Oct

Final
Apr
Post 16


ILR L01 (Snapshot at 01 November 2010)
Apr

NISVQ
Feb

KS45 Awarding Bodies
Feb

KS45 Indicators
Feb

ILR L05 (Whole academic year 2010/11)
Feb
School Census


Autumn 2010/11 (Excludes absence and exclusions). Collected in September 2010.
Jan

Spring 2010/11 (Excludes absence and exclusions). Collected in January 2011.
Jun

Exclusions 2009/10 (Full academic year)
Jul

Summer 2010/11 (Excludes absence and exclusions). Collected in May 2011.
Aug

Absence (First two terms of the academic year)
Oct

Autumn 2011/2012 (Excludes absence and exclusions) Collected in September 2011.
Jan

Absence (Full academic year)
Mar
PLAMS


Amended exam (from 2011 Autumn Census)
Feb

Participation (from 2011 Autumn Census)
Jan

The standard KS4 extract combines attainment achieved at KS4 with previous attainment at KS1, KS2 and KS3, and spring census data from the current academic year (and previous 6 years), undertaken by schools. Three extracts are produced throughout the year; ‘unamended’, ‘amended’ and ‘final’, at various stages of the checking process. KS4 entry data is collected by the Performance Tables contractor from awarding bodies and matched into their existing database. Approximately 150 awarding bodies provide the contractor with separate data feeds of results data which are then matched from examination level to the individual student. When this has taken place, some additional indicators and flags are calculated by the contractor and added to the data before ‘unamended’ data is provided for matching into the NPD. After matching is completed, the first, ‘unamended’ KS4 extract is released, usually around November. At the same time as the data is being matched into the NPD, the Performance Tables are sent to schools for checking. After schools have made any changes, the ‘amended’ data can then be matched into the NPD, and the ‘amended’ extract is usually available for release around January. After the Performance Tables have been published, schools are given the opportunity to make errata changes. Again, this new data is matched into the NPD and the ‘final’ KS4 extract is available around April.


Variables in NPD

This wiki has a page for each key set of variables in NPD. These are:
IDs: The pupil, school and local authority identifiers are described on one page (these are the pupil upn and pmr, the school urn and laestab, the local authority lacode).
Fixed pupil characteristics, which should not vary with time and so should (but may not) remain the same in each sweep of the census. They are pupil gender and age, English as an additional language, ethnicity.
Time-varying pupil characteristics that may change in each sweep of the census because they describe the circumstances of the pupil at that point in time. They are free school meals eligibility, special educational needs classification, geocodes (postcode and SOA), deprivation (idaci), other pupil indicators (year, status, boarder, part-time, entry-date).
Key stage test results and other attainment data at the ages of five (Early years foundation stage profile or FSP) seven (KS1), eleven (KS2) 14 (KS3), 16 (KS4 or GCSE) and 18 (KS5).
School type characteristics, which describe the school the pupil attends at each sweep of the census.


Access and use of the NPD by the Educational Community

Schools typically have their own Management Information System (MIS) to collect and analyse pupil level information. Extracts from these systems are used to complete school census returns provided to LAs or directly to the DfE. A school may also share other data and information from their MIS with partners and LA.

The NPD data is made available to the educational community through a range of channels, providing information such as national and LA comparators which may not be available in the MIS. These include the following:

Schools and their partners will use this information to inform the school’s self evaluation, planning and development. National Comparator figures available through the above sources help provide benchmarks to the figures held in the schools MIS. Ofsted Inspectors use this information in their preparation for a school visit. This helps inform their understanding of the schools circumstances. This is used alongside attainment and progress data to help identify areas to investigate during their visit.


Applying for data

The Department for Education has reviewed and improved its governance arrangements and application procedures for handling requests for data from the National Pupil Database. From 30 July 2012, interested parties can request extracts of data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) using the application pack available on the Department for Education website: http://www.education.gov.uk/researchandstatistics/national-pupil-database.

Over the last ten years extracts of the data have been shared under strict terms and conditions with named bodies and third parties who require data for research into the educational achievement of pupils. The data has provided invaluable evidence on educational performance to inform independent research, as well as analysis carried out or commissioned by the Department. The improved access arrangements aim to encourage more organisations to request access to the data for educational research, maximising the value of this rich dataset.

The Department has developed a number of standard extracts which they hope will fulfil many peoples’ needs and speed up access to the data. The extracts have been organised into four different tiers of access, each with their own governance arrangements. More information on standard extracts and a full list of data items available in each tier, including new information at School level, can be found in the data tables on the NPD web page.

Customers with more complex requirements can still request a bespoke extract of the data. All applications will go through a robust approval process and those granted access will be subject, as before, to strict terms and conditions on the security, handling and use of the data, including compliance with the Data Protection Act. Anyone requesting access to the most sensitive data will also be required to submit a business case and provide additional information about their security arrangements.

You will find full details of the application process including the new NPD User Guide and Protocol, NPD Data Requests Application Pack and Data Security Self-Assessment form at: http://www.education.gov.uk/researchandstatistics/national/b00212283/national-pupil-database.