Welsh government tenders for combined student dataset
Contract will create anonymised record of pupil performance from GCSE to higher education; unions say information is already available but question how data is to be used
The Welsh government has launched a tender to bring together separate information on pupils from their mid-teens onwards into an anonymised matched dataset holding details about student activities and qualification attainment up to and beyond compulsory education.
Set to last for an initial two year period, the proposed data linking contract will compile separate educational datasets focused on key stage four and key stage five students, relating to GCSE and A Level studies, as well as higher education learners.
The agreement will also carry the option for three additional 12 month extensions that would potentially lead to a re-tender in 2021. Potential bidders have until November 8 to express an interest in the opportunity.
Under the terms of the agreement, suppliers are required to demonstrate they can meet the technical requirements of the Cyber Essentials Scheme (CES).
“Evidence of holding a cyber essentials (or equivalent) certificate is desirable before contract award, but is essential at the point when data is to be passed to the supplier,” said the notice.
Although a separate system for examinations is used in each of the four nations making up the UK, ATL, the education union, said the details that would be compiled through the contract were already provided nationally on a school by school basis. However, this freely available information does not count individual pupil details.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Wales said that as long as the information in the new dataset remained anonymised, it had no initial privacy concerns about the idea of bringing together information for the government’s use.
“As far as we’re concerned there is generally no issue with this at present and the option of improved accountability is no bad thing,” said a spokesperson for the union.
The NUT maintained that the key question would be with how or why the data was being used, based on previous concerns about a “data-driven” targeted approach to education.
“We want it to be used to support the education sector rather than punish it,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.
The issue of data sharing in the UK, whether anonymised or with personal details like healthcare, was under discussion by parliament this week as part of ongoing scrutiny of the Digital Economy Bill that aims to set out regulations on a number of areas like information management.
Among those giving evidence to the select committee reviewing the proposed legislation was Open Data Institute (ODI) chief executive Jeni Tennison, which played up the need for greater transparency and simplification of language to explain to the public how their information will be used.
“It is hard to understand the measures in the bill within the context of the existing data sharing agreements that exist within the public sector. What we would like to see is a lot more transparency around what existing measures there are within government for data sharing and how these measures fit with those existing ones so that people can really get to grips with the way which data is flowing through government,” she said.