This opportunity is closed for applications

The deadline was Tuesday 13 August 2019
Department for Education

National Pupil Data Achievement and Attainment Tables (NPDAAT) Service copy

2 Incomplete applications

0 SME, 2 large

5 Completed applications

2 SME, 3 large

Important dates

Tuesday 30 July 2019
Deadline for asking questions
Tuesday 6 August 2019 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Tuesday 13 August 2019 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
The National Pupil Database Achievement and Attainment Tables service is business critical. It underpins high profile school performance statistics that often make headline news when published. It is used widely to inform and evaluate policy decisions, deliver accountability through digital services, and operationally to drive school funding and improvement activity.
Latest start date
Friday 4 October 2019
Expected contract length
2 years with a possible 6 month extension
No specific location, eg they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education
Budget range
Total budget for two years excluding VAT is estimated at £8 - 10 million.
An indicative breakdown of costs should be provided and include the following aspects of the service:
• Service management
• Data Collection
• Data transfer, storage and cleaning
• Data matching split by automated vs manual matching
• Data validation through data sharing and feedback to schools split by digital platform vs helpdesk
• Data processing split by product (e.g. performance tables files, National Pupil Database outputs and Young People’s Matched Administration Dataset outputs)
• Testing and quality assurance

About the work

Why the work is being done
Data is essential to DfE to meet its strategic aim of making evidence-based decisions. The data provided under this contract is business critical for use in school funding calculations and informing the Department and key delivery partners about school performance – allowing them to effectively target intervention and support activities. National Pupil Database data is shared widely to help develop, deliver and evaluate education policy. The data also underpins a number of the Department’s digital services e.g. the performance tables website. The service needs to be responsive to regular changes in policy as a key delivery mechanism of accountability policy.
Problem to be solved
The Department requires a service to support the collection, matching, checking and processing of a large volume of complex data that is sourced from a variety of systems/organisations. The Department is investigating a strategic solution for this service that will support its wider data strategy, driving efficiency by reducing duplication of data management across the data estate. This contract will provide business continuity to enable the transition, by the Department, between the existing service and the longer term solution. It will deliver a robust source of pupil and exam level data as soon as possible after data becomes available.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As an analyst, I need timely and accurate source data to analyse, report and publish. I provide insightful analysis to support policy and operational decision making.
As a policy delivery specialist, I require early cuts of the data and continual dialog throughout the annual cycle to effectively project manage the release of data.
As an awarding organisation, I require a simple and efficient way to get my data onto the supplier’s system.
As a customer of DfE’s data (e.g. schools, governors, Ofsted) I need a trusted source of education data so that I can support schools to continually improve.
Early market engagement
We have not carried out any previous market engagement, for this procurement, but have referred to feedback from the market when this contract was renewed in 2016/17.
In setting the contract date, the award decision will be announced by the 4th October 2019 to enable a new supplier a six month development and testing window ahead of the service needing to be live on the 1st April 2020.
We will be presenting information about this project on the 5th August at 3pm – 4pm. To listen to this please dial in to: 0203 321 5238 and enter conference id: 41102603.
For further detailed information around our requirements please email / write to and we will send them to you.
Any work that’s already been done
There is an established service in place to deliver a large number of files and products to the timescales required, which has been developed and improved by the current supplier RM Results.
There have been ongoing discovery phases within the Department into different aspects of that process to support the development of a strategic solution.
The supplier will need to provide continuity of service, by producing the current outputs to at least existing timescales, whilst also supporting the Department to move to the strategic solution, by providing transparency of processes, an underlying rules base, and by sharing knowledge.
Existing team
The incumbent supplier, RM Results, works with a core Department team of around 36 permanent staff with a mix of analysts (statisticians/operational researchers), project delivery specialists, and a seasonal service desk. They are responsible for the Department’s development and publication of attainment and progress national statistics. They work across a number of other internal teams including:
• Policy
• Digital scrum teams providing school performance tables and
analyse school performance services
• National pupil database data sharing team
And external organisations such as:
• Awarding organisations
• Other suppliers e.g. those working on the NPD, developing digital
services (performance tables)
Current phase
Not applicable

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
The majority of the work to provide this service will take place at the supplier’s address in the UK (preferably with a London site) . All development and maintenance activity must be completed within the UK or EEA and all Buyer Data must remain in the UK or EEA. The Supplier must obtain written permission from the Buyer before undertaking activity outside of these locations. The DfE teams are currently located across London, Sheffield and Darlington but in the main, the supplier will only be required to attend face-face meetings in London.
Working arrangements
We expect the supplier will have a team or teams working on their own sites and for there to be regular (usually weekly) meetings - mainly remotely to cover the majority of the governance and day to day work of the teams in project managing the process, checking outputs etc. There will also be regular meetings on site both at the Department’s offices in London and the supplier’s offices (at least monthly) for the purposes of strategic oversight, governance and continuous improvement. The frequency of meetings may vary with an increase during peak delivery times.
Security clearance
Evidence of BPSS clearance and annual certification on information handling and data protection are required for all contractors. Workers are not permitted to copy/remove or share any data owned by DfE, additionally suppliers will need to ensure that any system holding DfE data comply with the government security policy framework.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Compliance with National Cyber Security Centre guidance
Departmental security standards including ISO27001 certified
Cyber Security Essentials Plus certified
General Data Protection Regulation compliance
Service Management is aligned to relevant industry and HM Government standards and best practice guidelines for example ISO20000

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Experience of delivering complex data services.
  • Experience of developing and delivering complex technical data solutions including a demonstrable approach to solutions and data architecture.
  • Experience of providing data capability at scale to collect/store large scale data sets from a wide range of organisations with varying input quality (90 AOs sending 25 million records)
  • Experience of being able to provide data capability at scale to prepare, link, and match large datasets to tight timescales with a high level of accuracy.
  • Experience of being able to provide data capability at scale to process data to create additional business indicators to support reporting and analysis undertaken by the Department.
  • Experience of producing high quality, robust and assured datasets.
  • Experience of building/running a secure service where c20,000 users can authenticate, validate and feedback on the data we hold on their establishments and people to improve quality/accuracy of data.
  • Ability to run service desk teams, who understand education terminology and are able to work with local authorities, schools etc, and can be scaled up for peak seasons
  • Ability to process data according to specifications developed collaboratively between the supplier and the customer’s analysts to create the full range of data outputs including complex layered derived variables
  • Proven experience of working with government Departments.
  • Experience of building services that meet government security standards and hold ISO27001 certification.
  • Experience of implementing and ensuring data governance
  • Experience of communicating between technical and non-technical teams across digital, data and policy teams.
  • Experience of ensuring high quality data through robust data cleaning and quality assurance of data products.
  • Experience of continual service improvement and supporting customers to build their knowledge of the service in order to drive efficiency through identifying duplication across siloed work areas.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Familiarity with the Department’s or education data landscape and the recent history of policy changes such as the evolution of value-added measures
  • Experience of working directly with schools, multi-academy trusts local authorities and/or awarding organisations
  • Experience of working with key stakeholders using compatible technology (Microsoft)
  • Willing to operate from an office space in the London area

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • The proposed technical solution to deliver this service in full, with a split by the key elements of the service (collection, matching, processing and validation)
  • Time needed in order to operationalise this service
  • How they’ve identified risks and dependencies and offered approaches to manage them
  • How they will manage a number of complex hand-offs and work with the Department to streamline processes and drive efficiencies
  • Experience delivering at pace whilst ensuring high quality
  • How they propose to ensure the quality and robustness of the data outputs
  • How they will keep the service under review to ensure it meets business needs
  • How they will meet the deliverables for each area (NPD, performance tables etc)
  • How they will work with the Department
  • How the supplier will manage the delivery of outputs particularly through seasonal peaks of activity with hard deadlines
  • How can they help us develop and build the Department’s knowledge and understanding of this service to support the work on a longer term strategic replacement
Cultural fit criteria
  • Quality – demonstrate commitment to high quality work and data under pressured timescales in challenging circumstances
  • Innovate – Act on initiative, drive improvements, balance risks, deliver value for money
Payment approach
Fixed price
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. If you have a preferred technology stack, what are the main technologies?
We do not have a preferred technology stack for the delivery of these services and want bidders to propose the solution architectures which, based on their experience, will provide the capabilities to deliver the required services.

The Department’s hosting platform is Microsoft Azure and the majority of our internal business applications and services are hosted in Azure.
Our current technology strategy is focused on the adoption of cloud services and we are transforming how these services are designed and delivered through the wider adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).
2. "Experience of delivering complex data services". Are you looking for a single example to show depth of experience or multiple examples to show breath of experience?
The Department will consider both breadth and depth of experience to assess the suppliers capability to meet the requirements for this service. The best examples will be those that demonstrate the supplier has the capability to deliver a complex data service encompassing collection, matching, processing and validation through a number of iterations in each cycle.
3. Is the department looking for use of specific data governance (frameworks) such as DAMA, TOGAF, DGI?
The department will consider any suitable data governance frameworks that enable the supplier to meet the requirements of the service. The department itself has developed a data governance framework based on the good industry practises of TOGAM and DAMA.
4. Experience of providing data capability at scale to collect/store large scale data sets from a wide range of organisations with varying input quality (90 AOs sending 25 million records)". What is an AO? Also are the 25m records sent in a wide range of formats, do you know how many concurrent submissions will be made at peak?
An AO is an awarding organisation. The supplier can request the format of the input data from awarding organisations, but the supplier will be expected to engage with awarding organisations to define the format to ensure it is user friendly and enables a complete and high quality collection. The number of concurrent submissions made during peak activity is around 40 per day.
5. Why are you going out to market if you have an incumbent, surely they have an advantage?
We are following Public Sector Procurement Regulations and therefore competing the next stage of the service. We are giving all suppliers the same opportunity through holding a supplier engagement event, providing detailed information packs and allowing a 6 month transition period.
6. Will you consider evidence of the provision of similar services from other countries, or the UK only?
We are happy to consider evidence from other countries.
7. Can you clarify if this is a contract for the transition period or the new strategic model?
This is an interim arrangement of 2 years, so we are procuring a largely ‘as is’ set of outcomes to enable us to transition to a longer-term strategic solution. Towards the end of the two years the department will have a better understanding of the future requirements and therefore what may need to be procured beyond this contract.
8. Can you share the outcome of the discovery phase so that we can align our proposal with the direction of travel?
We have taken outcomes of discovery work into account in developing the requirements for this service (for example, breaking it down into 4 key components). We will share relevant outcomes of the discovery for the longer-term strategic position at the second stage of this procurement process.
9. Can you explain more about what the data matching process involves?
The Department collects a range of data about learners under the current contract. There are 2 levels of matching. The first level is from awarding organisation data (about the achievement of learners) within a particular year. The 2nd level is where data is matched to central learner ‘spine’ which allows the data to be linked longitudinally to data such as characteristics or prior attainment.
10. Is the data held internally on DfE systems, or is there a black box situation?
The department collects and holds a range of learner data, predominantly through the school census, which includes information on pupil characteristics e.g. gender, ethnicity. The data matching is predominantly matching attainment data (either provided by the department or collected by the supplier from awarding organisations) to that pupil level information and creates a pupil identifier. The matching and processing of the data is not completed on DfE systems and AO data collected by the supplier is help on the supplier’s systems
11. Is there an information pack?
Yes, the email address is in the advert. If you would like this pack, please request it by emailing
12. Is the data compliant with the standards published by the Information Standards Board? If not, what is the timescale for bringing these data in line with those standards?
The data collected by the department through the COLLECT and Send Data to DfE mechanisms relies on the Common Basic Data Set Standards and the data from awarding organisations collected through this contract should align with the JCQ A2C standards (which are close to the data standards published by Information Standards Board). For this procurement the current standards should be assumed.
13. Has the volume of helpdesk queries changed in the 25 years that the incumbent supplier has been delivering this service?
Yes, the volume of queries does vary and has changed in response to policy changes over that time. The volumes have stabilised in recent years following the recent big reform programme (the introduction of progress measures as headline measures and reforms to assessments and qualifications). To note: the incumbent supplier has not been delivering the service for 25 years.
14. Is the current supplier under any contractual obligation to share knowledge of the existing service with a new supplier? (E.g. data processing rules, matching logic, technical configuration etc.)
The supplier is under obligation to share data owned by the department, descriptive information about processes, information that explains what the data matching approach is including issues/anomalies and accurate volumetrics associated with the different stages of service delivery in the most recently completed cycle. They are not obliged to share information protected by their IPR.
15. Is it contractually feasible for the new supplier to migrate some or all of the existing technical infrastructure for the existing service (e.g. servers, software, data processing routines etc.) to a new service or would this all need to be implemented "from scratch"?
This would need to be implemented ‘from scratch’ with support from the incumbent to provide descriptive information and support for any parallel running activity. The incumbent supplier could, for example, feasibly analyse and provide information about capacity and performance requirements; generate a copy of the algorithms / production rules used to produce the Deliverables; deliver copies of the production databases; provide information to assist with parallel operations.
16. Are there any TUPE considerations?
We are checking with lawyers on any detail we can provide at this time and will issue an update before the advert closes.
17. This project requires the use of data coming from the Census and SCDB. What is the % of records from these datasets which contain errors resulting in remedial work by the current supplier? Can the DfE provide the KPIs relating to the quality of those datasets?
The census data is validated at source and therefore our supplier does not encounter issues with loading the data into their data matching system. They do not make corrections to this data at this point in the process. The SCDB data does sometimes throw up issues or anomalies in data validation, but this is on average less than 0.5% of records in the files delivered in the year to date and most of them are corrected in subsequent versions delivered by the department rather than requiring corrective action from the supplier. There are no KPIs in place for this.
18. The current checking exercise is described as using usernames and passwords distributed by the supplier. What has prevented the use of Secure Access or DfE Sign-In?
Secure Access or DfE sign in have not been used historically for the checking exercise, due to the checking exercise being run by the supplier on behalf of DfE. This is technically possible but has not been explored fully as an option to date.
19. Can you share what is working well or what needs improving from the current service?
We are always looking for ways to improve and as such we have a continual service improvement plan with the incumbent supplier. We can share more detail of that with the successful supplier. As the current service is mature, continuous improvement is about fine tuning and being flexible to policy changes than major change. An example under consideration is the schools checking exercise and the interaction between policy and data processes. The supplier will need to support the department in understanding these, so that informed decisions can be made, and then be flexible to implementing any agreed changes.
20. Are there any TUPE considerations?
The Authority understands that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) may apply to this transaction and that the 36 staff, currently employed by the current service provider, may transfer to the successful bidder. However, the Authority makes no representations or warranties in this regard and is not liable for this opinion. Potential Suppliers should obtain their own legal advice to determine whether or not TUPE will apply.