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Centre for Doctoral Education



Administrative Data Research UK: Unlocking Linked Data for Research on Children and Young People

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 8 June 2022

This post by Balint Stewart of Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) provides insight into linked data sources for research on children and young people.

Children and young people are two of the most vulnerable groups in society and the Covid-19 pandemic has brought prolonged interruptions in access to formal education settings and other health and wellbeing support services. The impact of this has been felt particularly acutely for the most disadvantaged.

At the same time, the pandemic has also shown how the timely and secure use of data can be used to inform policy and improve people’s lives. One currently under-used form of data in research is government-held administrative data, which is data collected when individuals interact with public services such as schools and colleges, the NHS, the courts, and the benefits system.

ADR UK (Administrative Data Research UK) is a partnership revolutionising the way researchers access and use government-held data about people in the UK to enable better policy decisions that improve people’s lives. As well as opening up safe and secure access to deidentified data through a network of partnerships with trusted research environments, ADR UK supports and funds projects that link data from different sources together.

Linkages to education data has been at the forefront of ADR UK activities to date. These include linking the National Pupil Database (NPD) with data on children’s health, future employment, and interactions with the courts. Linking data in this way can lead us to a much more complete understanding of people’s lives and of how early experiences affect later life.

Figure 1: Simplified diagram of linked datasets available (or soon to be available) for access in the ONS Secure Research Service, with datasets coloured by ADR UK research themes. The full list of available datasets, as well as information about how to access the data, can be found in the ONS Secure Research Service metadata catalogue.