back to

New dept of education rules force data journalists to approve research with UK government


In an effort likely to shut down government policy scrutiny in the UK, academics and journalists will now have to submit their research to the British government for approval when pulling information from the Department of Education national pupil database. Any journalist or academic who wishes to publish an article with information from the national pupil database must give the government 48 hours to review their research. The government purports that this is to “ensure consistency,” but critics maintain that this is purely a governmental attempt at suppressing criticism and information unfavorable to the government. Read John Dickens’s report for Schools Week in partial below, or in full here.

Academics and journalists have been ordered to give civil servants two days to look over any research they plan to publish from the national pupil database in a move that some fear will shut down rapid scrutiny of government policy.

Researchers were informed yesterday that any analysis produced using statistics from the national pupil database (NPD) must be shared with department officials 48 hours before publication.

The department said the change would ensure policy officials and press officers are not “caught off guard” when data is published.

But the move has been criticised by academics and journalists who say it will shut down rapid scrutiny.

Publications by organisations like Education Datalab and the Education Policy Institute, quickly turned around after the government announced its intention to remove grammar schools, were awkward for the government as they cast doubt on claims the policy would improve social mobility.

Data analysis from both organisations were also particularly widely reported in the media and both made use of the national pupil database.

Professor Stephen Gorard, from the school of education at Durham University, also noted problems for academics who are not abreast of publication timeframes.

He said: “The idea I can give 48 hours’ notice is unworkable. It doesn’t fit in with academic publishing, where we genuinely don’t know 48 hours in advance is something is being published.

“I feel under pressure from this directive that if we don’t do what they say we won’t get it in the future, and I need this for my job.”

The NPD contains data from almost 20 million pupils and is accessible to businesses and researchers by request, though there are strict conditions on what is released to preserve anonymity.

The DfE, in an email to researchers yesterday, said the change will “ensure consistency across our user community”.