Examinations regulator Ofqual has set out a new data sharing framework for the GRADE (Grading and Admissions Data for England) dataset for 2017-20.
It said this provides guidance for researchers wishing to access GRADE, setting out the application and review process and clarifying requirements that accredited external researchers must meet.
The GRADE project was launched in 2021 as a joint open data initiative by Ofqual, education regulator Ofsted, the Department for Education and the university admissions system UCAS. It covers GCSE and A level exams and qualifications, the National Pupil Database and data from the university application system.
Ofqual said it is designed to encourage independent research that will enhance the quality of the qualification system. It includes detailed information on the qualifications taken, such as subject, awarding organisation and tier of entry for GCSEs and A levels.
It also has information about pupils, such as age, gender, socio-economic background and prior levels of attainment, including teacher assessments and test results for key stages 1 and 2, and information about university applications, offers and acceptances.
Grades and marks achieved by students over 2017-19 have been made available. For 2020, when exams were cancelled, the dataset includes details of the centre assessment grades and calculated grades for each student.
The framework outlines two top requirements researchers must meet. First is to become an accredited researcher with the Office for National Statistics; second is to gain approval for a specific project from the ONS Secure Research Service and the data owners by submitting details through the Research Accreditation Service.
Ofqual said that data can only be accessed for valuable and ethical research that delivers clear public benefits. Commercial and operational uses of the data will not be allowed.
Ofqual executive director for standards, research and analysis, Cath Jadhav, said: “The GRADE project is a ground breaking initiative that demonstrates Ofqual’s commitment to openness and transparency by allowing independent researchers access to a wealth of information to gain valuable insights about the assessment process.
“For the first time accredited researchers will have access to cross-referenced data shared by Ofqual, the Department for Education and UCAS. Their research will inform future policy about education, assessment and university applications.”