The Secretary of State for Education has explained that the DfES wishes to build a system which will 'track' all children and young people. The following is her reply to the parliamentary question in which she confirmed this:

"Ms Estelle Morris [holding answer 5 February 2001]: The Department intends to create a central pupil database containing statistical profiles for all pupils in the maintained schools sector in England. Information relating to each pupil will be collated mainly by means of a "unique pupil number" (UPN) allocated to them when they first enter school. This database will track pupils' progress from Key Stage to Key Stage and relate this to contextual information about them. The information that it provides both for central agencies (the Department, the Office for Standards in Education and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) and for local education authorities and schools will make a major contribution to the drive to raise standards, and to monitoring the achievements of ethnic minority and other potentially vulnerable groups. The database will be subject to strict security controls to prevent any improper access to information about individual pupils. This aspect of the project has been, and will continue to be, the subject of detailed discussions with the Data Protection Commissioner.

"The backbone of the database will be the "pupil level Annual Schools' Census" (PLASC) to be conducted in January of each year and providing information for each pupil individually referenced by their UPN, rather than just school totals as in the existing Annual Schools' Census (or "Form 7") which PLASC is replacing.

"UPNs were allocated to pupils during the 1999-2000 school year, and included in the reporting of all Key Stage assessment results in summer 2000. About 2,000 schools are submitting a PLASC return for January 2001, and a sample of schools in all local education authorities is trialling the process. It is expected that all maintained primary, middle, secondary and special schools in England will be making PLASC returns from January 2002 onwards. The aim is to establish the central pupil database as soon as possible after full implementation of PLASC in January 2002."

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