Guidance

How to access Department for Education (DfE) data extracts

How to apply for data extracts from the National Pupil Database (NPD), School Workforce, Individualised Learner Record and Higher Education Statistics Agency.

By default, all data shares will be done through the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service (ONS SRS). However, where the SRS is not suitable and evidence can be provided to support this, the following exemptions on the use of SRS for sharing data will be considered:

  • data is being processed to fulfil an essential public task, such as the running of education or children’s services
  • you are doing research funded by, or commissioned by, DfE and its executive agencies or other government departments
  • you are doing research that is sponsored or supported by DfE and its executive agencies as adding significant value to the evidence base supporting education or children’s services

If you are unsure, contact data.sharing@education.gov.uk.

Find and explore DfE data

You can apply for data extracts from the:

Apply for access to DfE data

Before applying for education data using the Secure Research Service, you must have a basic disclosure certificate that is no more than 2 years old.

Anyone who needs to access the Secure Research Service will also need to be accredited under the ONS approved researcher scheme. We recommend that you begin this process as soon as possible and take steps to become accredited by ONS in parallel to your application. Contact research.support@ons.gov.uk with any questions.

When you are ready to make an application, please contact data.sharing@education.gov.uk and we’ll:

  • send you an application form and guidance to complete it – including the new method for classifying data identification risk and sensitivity levels
  • let you know what data is available and the best way to access it
  • help you through the Data Sharing Approval Panel (DSAP) approval process
  • provide the final agreement and declaration for you to sign

We maintain strict governance checks around the legality, proportionality, public benefit and security of requests.

All applications must be made on the DfE application form available from data.sharing@education.gov.uk. This includes requests for extracts from the National Pupil Database (NPD), and matching NPD extracts to other sources.

Accessing the data using the Secure Research Service

Once you are an ONS approved researcher and your data application has been approved, there are 2 ways you can access DfE data for approved projects through the Secure Research Service. You can use:

  • physical labs – you can book a session to access DfE data at 1 of 5 ONS locations across the UK
  • remote access – once your organisation meets security standards and have organised connectivity with ONS, you can access data online using your own equipment subject to specified conditions

We’re aware some users are experiencing connectivity and performance issues with the Secure Research Service. We will consider contingencies such as the use of physical labs, temporary loan of ONS laptops, or short-term physical transfer of data.

Contact us for details on getting approved remote access, or to report technical problems and get additional support: research.support@ons.gov.uk.

Standard data extracts

A number of National Pupil Database (NPD) de-identified individual level ‘standard extracts’ for each academic year are now readily available in the Secure Research Service. It will be possible to link these extracts at a pupil level. If you apply to use standard extracts, we can approve your request and provide access more quickly.

Contact data.sharing@education.gov.uk for more information about which standard extracts might meet your project requirements.

Bespoke extracts

If your project requires more data than is available in the NPD standard extracts, you can apply for a bespoke data extract. Bespoke data requests take longer than the standard extracts to create and approve.

Bespoke linked NPD and HESA data will be available to access through the ONS Secure Research Service soon and we will update this page when this is available.

Future developments

We are continuing to improve the ways you can access DfE data. Planned future developments include:

  • an online application process
  • more readily available standard extracts, based on the most requested data
  • publicly available synthetic data to help test and plan research

For more information on future developments, please contact data.sharing@education.gov.uk.

Published 25 September 2018
Last updated 14 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated the exemptions to data sharing for using the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service (ONS SRS).

  2. Added a link to the tool to find and explore data in the National Pupil Database.

  3. Removed table of standard extracts under 'Standard data extracts'.

  4. Updated information that explains the exemptions to accessing the data extracts through the Secure Research Service.

  5. Added wording to 'Apply for access to DfE data' section to make clear that applications need to be made to DfE, and not the ONS.

  6. Added more data extracts: key stage 1 pupil data, key stage 2 pupil data, key stage 4 pupil data and key stage 5 student data. Added information about who to contact if you experience problems accessing the Secure Research Service.

  7. Updated the table under 'Standard data extracts'.

  8. First published.