‘English national pupil database one of the most impressive in the world’

CREDIT: This story was first seen in Tes

National pupil database has enabled unique debate on “equity, life chances, social mobility, social justice”, global education expert says

Tes reports that the national pupil database is one of the most ‘impressive’ in the world and has enabled a ‘particularly well-informed discourse’ about social justice in England, a global education expert has said.

This afternoon the Education Development Trust – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving education around the world – published a report analysing England’s approach to school performance data.

Tony McAleavy, the EDT’s director of research and consultancy, who launched the report at the Education World Forum in London, said that the national pupil database had emerged as the “unlikely hero” in the evolution of school performance data in England.

The database was enabled by the creation in 1999 of a unique pupil number (UPN) for every single student who attends a government school. This allows pupils’ key characteristics to be tracked over time, including their attainment, ethnicity, and whether they come from a deprived background.

“I have the privilege of working in lots of different countries, and I have personally never come across anything quite like it,” Mr McAleavy said. “The States has nothing like it – certainly at a federal level.”

“It is a particularly – in global terms – mature and impressive system. It’s one that most of the world hasn’t really heard of, and I think…that it does make possible in this country a particularly well-informed discourse relating to equity, life chances, social mobility, social justice.

“The fact that we’re talking about ‘how come kids in Blackpool or Stoke seem to be doing particularly badly?’ It’s all underpinned by the data.”

Mr McAleavy said that the richness of the data had helped shape the policy agenda of the previous education secretary, Justine Greening.

“I don’t know what the new minister [Damian Hinds] is going to prioritise, but for sure Justine Greening was very influenced by this in terms of what she saw as the priorities,” he said.

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