Awarded to Paper

Start date: Monday 20 November 2017
Value: £42,600
Company size: SME
Department for Education (DfE)

National Pupil Database Access - Discovery

12 Incomplete applications

6 SME, 6 large

16 Completed applications

13 SME, 3 large

Important dates

Wednesday 13 September 2017
Deadline for asking questions
Wednesday 20 September 2017 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Wednesday 27 September 2017 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
The Department for Education is exploring ways to more effectively provide access to the National Pupil Database (NPD) - with an emphasis on 'distributing access, not data'. Initial discovery has identified several potential options that we would like to test and explore further with our NPD user groups
Latest start date
Wednesday 18 October 2017
Expected contract length
6 weeks
No specific location, eg they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education (DfE)
Budget range

About the work

Why the work is being done
In the form of the National Pupil Database (NPD) the Department for Education (DfE) has some one of the best data sources in government. However, how we provide access to the data needs to be modernised to realise it's potential benefit - with an emphasis on 'distributing access, not data'.

The discovery is required to refresh our understanding of who the key users are and their needs, with a view to:

a) Streamlining the application process for NPD data; and
b) Provide safe and secure access to this data for those that require it
Problem to be solved
The key problem we are looking solve can be summarised as:

'How can the DfE maximise the benefit of our data, initially NPD, by providing fast, safe and secure access to those who use it to add/create value – whilst reducing cost and maximising information security'.

The emphasis is on understanding the problems and considering high level approaches rather than proposing specific technical solutions.
Who the users are and what they need to do

As an external researchers/analyst
I need to have access to the National Pupil Database (NPD)
So that I can conduct essential research (that may help to shape future DfE policy)


As the NPD data owner
I need to provide secure and controlled access to the NPD
So that internal & external researcher/analysts can produce analysis/finding that add value to the DfE, whilst minimising information risk.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
We have been liaising with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) to explore the possibility providing access to the NPD via ONS/ADRN channels.

We have identified several potential options which, as part of this discovery, we would like to evaluate to determine if they would:

a) Meet user needs
b) Reduce the current demand for bespoke NPD extracts
c) Increase demand for NPD data
Existing team
The supplier will be working with the DfE NPD Access Development lead
Current phase
Not started

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Sheffield & Darlington - with likely travel to various locations throughout the UK.
Working arrangements
a) We are looking for flexibility in the approach to completing this discovery
b) We will be working to Agile principles - i.e. regular stand ups, Show & Tells, Retrospectives
c) Necessary expenses will be paid in line with DfE standard policies
Security clearance
The supplier may need to access a sample of real NPD data for the discovery. As such, any successful supplier would be expected to meet the security terms associated with applying for an NPD Extract, outlined here:

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

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 taking a user centric approach from inception throughout the project lifecycle
  • Experience of arranging and managing participants to ensure their particpation in research sessions
  • Experience of passing Government Digital Service service assessments
Nice-to-have skills and experience

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Approach & methodology
  • How the approach or solution meets user needs
  • Value for Money
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work as a team with our organisation and other suppliers
  • Be transparent and collaborative
  • Share knowledge and experience with other team members
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Be comfortable standing up for their discipline
Payment approach
Fixed price
Assessment methods
Written proposal
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Do you have a maximum budget in mind?
Yes, we do. We prefer not to disclose the budget.
2. Without understanding your price upper limit, as a supplier it is difficult to know if this is project we wish to bid for. We have seen similar projects with a max budget of 8K and others >50K. This is a huge factor when considering a project and if we feel the goals of the project can be met within the budget parameters. Obviously if we don't feel it can, then we will not bid.
We do not wish to disclose our budget. If it helps form your decision, we would expect the discovery team to consist of a researcher and a service designer.
3. Under essential skills you state 'experience of passing GDS service assistance' – do you require a formal assessment? Would you consider applicants have successfully completed DOS discovery projects working to GDS principles?
We would like experience of passing GDS or internal departmental assessments (that have been conducted in line with GDS standards)
4. We find that discoveries which allow up to 8 weeks work better to allow time for surveys and participant recruitment. This wouldn't affect the price. Would you be open to this? Or is there a reason for the 6 week window?
We have some flexibility around discovery timescales. In principle we would be open to this if it didn't effect the price.
5. The utilisation of data for children under 16 has specific safeguarding / security policies – how important is it that we understand this before embarking on the discovery activity?
The DfE currently securely shares such data in line with existing legislation/guidelines. We can provide details of this during the discovery.
6. Are current NPD user groups (presumably who currently ’distribute data’?) likely to be the same target groups who will wish to ‘distribute access’? In short, is your target market the same for a different use of data?
I don't understand your question - can you clarify please?
7. Will the change from 'distributing data' to the new model of 'distributing access' change your admin and/or contributing users?
We envisage the admin side is likely to change (i.e. the existing process users follow to request NPD data extracts). The users of the NPD data extracts are likely to stay broadly the same. However, any new process may see different or new users requesting NPD data.
8. How easy do you envisage recruiting participants for research and do you expect us to manage that recruitment?
The recruitment of participants for research should be straight forwards. The DfE will look to recruit as many participants as possible in readiness for the discovery. However, the chosen suppliers would be expected to recruit additional participants if necessary.
9. What are your provisional plans and timescales for subsequent Alpha and Beta phases, and expectation of supplier involvement?
Modernising the way in which we distribute access to NPD data is a high priority within the DfE's Data Modernisation Division. We envisage there will be a subsequent Alpha. However, I can't reliably provide plans/timescales until we have completed the discovery.
10. It is mentioned that earlier work produced a number of options to be evaluated as part of this discovery. Do you expect these options to be tested through a prototype or can the team determine their viability based on research findings?
I would expect the viability of the options could be determined based on research findings. If any of the options appear vaiable, we may then require prototypes to test them further.
11. Will user recruitment costs and incentives be part of the project budget or can they be charged separately?
We would not expect to pay user recruitment costs and incentives. Our users are very much engaged with this piece of work and previous interactions/research with them have been cost/incentive free.

We would be happy to revisit this stance in the future if required.