England is taking part in The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS).
The purpose of the study is to produce statistics on children’s learning and development, in order to learn more about how best to support children in their early years. The Department for Education (DfE) has commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to carry out the study in England in 2017 and 2018.

We take privacy and confidentiality very seriously and adhere strictly to the 2018 Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To ensure confidentiality, no information concerning individual pupils, parents/carers, teachers or schools will be identified or identifiable in any reporting. This privacy notice tells you what DfE, and its approved contractors, will do with the information we collect from parents, children and teachers as part of the IELS study and how we will ensure privacy of personal information. It explains:

  • information to be collected for the study
  • organisations that information will be shared with
  • how we will use the personal data
  • what makes it lawful to collect and share the information
  • how participation affects you
  • security and confidentiality
  • contact details and further information

Participation in the study is voluntary. If there are any questions you do not wish to answer you may leave them blank. By providing information as part of this study, you are agreeing to the use of the information you provide as set out in this privacy notice.

Information to be collected for the study

The study will collect information about children’s development and their characteristics from their parent(s) or carer(s), their teachers and by studying the children themselves. No individual child, parent or teacher will be identified or identifiable in any reporting.

The DfE’s approved contractors for this study (NFER) will collect the following personal information about participating children from participating schools in order to administer the study:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender

Special category data such as:

  • Information on special educational needs.

We also ask teachers for their assessments of each participating child’s cognitive and social/emotional development.

their own characteristics:

  • age
  • level of education
  • relationship to child
  • family composition
  • English as an additional language
  • whether born in England
  • current employment

their child’s characteristics:

  • skills and abilities
  • physical health
  • special educational needs or disabilities
  • cognitive and social/emotional development
  • ethnicity
  • English as an additional language
  • whether born in England.

Information that we collect from teachers will be their:

  • age
  • gender
  • qualifications
  • employment status
  • how long they have been in post

Organisations that information will be shared with
NFER will collect this personal and special category data on behalf of DfE but will remove all information that could identify individual children, teachers or parents before this information is shared with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This means that OECD will receive an anonymised set of data for its production of aggregated statistics.

How we will use the personal data
For the purposes of this research, the DfE and its approved contractors will link the information to other information DfE already holds (such as on the National Pupil Database) or that it is lawfully permitted to access from other sources. This is to avoid repeatedly asking participants to give us information that we already hold and to enable analysis of the longer-term benefits of early learning.

DfE (or its appointed contractors) will keep the personal information indefinitely with appropriate safeguards in place to protect the information for the purposes of research and statistics (as permitted under Article 19 (1)(b) of the Data Protection Act 2018 and Article 9 (1)(j) GDPR), as the benefits of early learning are known to be related to life outcomes in adulthood and analysing the information from this study would enable greater understanding of this effect. Neither DfE (or its appointed contractors) will share any information that would identify individual participants in the study or other individuals to whom they refer, with any third parties unless required to do so by law.

What makes it lawful to collect and share the information?
Personal data will be collected by DfE’s appointed contractor on DfE’s behalf for the purposes of research and statistical analysis that is in the public interest pursuant to Regulation 3(6) of the Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons)(England) Regulations 2009. The legal basis for processing this data is Article 6(1)(e) of the General Data Protection Regulation where “processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the [data] controller”.

The processing of sensitive personal data, consisting of information as to racial or ethnic origin, this is necessary for the purpose of identifying or keeping under review the existence or absence of equality of opportunity or treatment between persons of different racial or ethnic origins as permitted under Article 9 (1)(j) of the GDPR. This is with a view to enabling such equality to be promoted or maintained and is carried out with appropriate safeguards for the rights and freedoms of data subjects.

How participation affects you
No individual child, parent, or teacher will be identified or identifiable in any reporting. Participation (or non-participation) in this study will have no influence on parents, teachers or children. Parents/carers are free to change their mind at any time and withdraw, or withdraw their child/children, from the study.

Further contact
Parents: if you agree to provide your contact details, DfE’s contracted partner will gather this information and pass it to the DfE. The DfE then might pass this information to another contractor to ask you to take part in further research. Please note that, if contacted, you will be under no obligation to take part and you can change your mind at any time. If you agree to participate, you will not be identified or identifiable in any results.

Security and confidentiality
Any personal data collected by DfE (and organisations acting on its behalf) will be handled securely and confidentially. It will only be used for the purposes of research and statistical analysis relating to children’s early learning and development and related topics.

Contact details for further information
For further information on how NFER will process your personal data for the purposes of IELS, please contact NFER’s enquiry line on 01753 637007 or [email protected]

How to raise a concern
If you have any questions about how DfE will use your information, please contact: [email protected]

Under data protection legislation, you have the right to:

      • object to processing of personal data that is likely to cause, or is causing, damage or distress
      • prevent processing for the purpose of direct marketing
      • object to decisions being taken by automated means
      • in certain circumstances, have inaccurate personal data rectified, blocked, erased or destroyed; and
      • claim compensation for damages caused by a breach of the Data Protection regulations.

If you have a concern about the way we are collecting or using your personal data, you should raise your concern with us in the first instance at [email protected] or directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office at

Webinar event for participating schools
As part of the study, we will contact participating schools to attend an online event. The aim of this event is to share the findings with the participants in recognition of their invaluable contribution to the project. Participants will have an opportunity to take part in an open discussion with panel members to explore the implications of the findings for schools. Our privacy notice for stakeholder communications provides specific information about how we manage personal data as part of our event management and organisation.

Last updated
We keep this privacy notice under review to make sure it is up to date and accurate. In February 2021, it was updated with details of the webinar for participating schools.