School variables

A small number of school level variables are available for each pupil in the NPD. These provide a limited amount of information themselves, but allow for a much wider range of information to be brought into the data set from other places.

The URN and LAESTAB variables are school identifiers. URN stands for 'Unique Reference Number', which is a six digit number that stays with a school throughout its lifetime. Academy converters are given a new URN when they switch over. However, they do not receive a new LAESTAB number, which is a seven digit number comprising a three digit LA code followed by a four digit establishment number. Again, this is a unique identifier, but it does change in the event that a school's Local Authority is part of an LA reorganisation (such as the recent one in Bedford). Schools in London have an LA identifier between 201 and 320, while schools in the rest of the country have LA identifiers between 330 and 938.

These school identifiers can be used to match in more information about a pupil's school. A range of school characteristics, such as number of pupils and percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals, can be downloaded from Edubase, while information on 2010 exam results can be accessed from the School Performance Tables website. Earlier attainment data can be obtained by emailing the Department for Education. Each of these data sets come with at least one of the URN or LAESTAB fields, as do the Ofsted judgements which can be downloaded from their website. These allow you to attach more school level data to your pupil level file.

Other school level information available in the NPD tells the user what type of school the pupil is in (such as Foundation school, Community School or Pupil Referral Unit). For ease of use, there are indicator variables making it clear whether a pupil is in a Maintained school, and whether they are in a Maintained Mainstream school. There are also some variables in more recent years (from 2008/09) which record the distance to each pupil's school from their home, the distance to the nearest school to their home and also what the LAESTAB number is for that nearest school. These can be useful if looking at choice of school.

Data collection

How is the variable collected by schools

Validity of measure

Data collected as part of the Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) should always be complete, although there are a very small number of pupils who do not have school level data where the data has been collected with exam results. Where a school identifier is correct (virtually all of the time), the assoicated information about those schools should be accurate too, although there are some small issues with timeliness, particularly with schools currently converting to academies at a relatively quick rate.

Cleaning the variable

Description of values across cohorts

Pupils' school data will change when they reach the end of the age range catered for by their school. This will happen most commonly at age 11 when they transfer from primary to secondary schools, but can equally happen with transfers from infant to junior schools as well as for pupils moving into and out of middle schools. A further group of pupils will change schools without reaching the end of their school's age range - sometimes this will be to move into another school which only caters for pupils in a certain age range (e.g. moving from a secondary school to an upper school), but it can also happen because they have chosen to change school, because they have been excluded from a school, or because their school has changed in some way (e.g. converted to an academy).