Tracking impact at the Office for National Statistics: An overview of education-themed data analysis and research

Over the past year, we have explored how data owned or managed by the Office for National Statistics has been used for education-themed research between December 2011 and March 2022. This work was in close collaboration with the Department for Education and other teams across the ONS Secure Research Service, as well as various organisations, institutions, and researchers.

The result is our ‘Thematic Research Overview: Education’. This report consolidates the outcomes and impact of education data analysis and evidences the value of data services to public good research – such as contributing to wider bodies of knowledge and supporting education policy planning, service delivery, and funding.

Looking for the ‘golden thread’ of impact

We answered four research questions:

  • What datasets are being used in the ONS Secure Research Service for research on education?
  • How is this data being used?
  • Which organisations and institutions are analysing this data?
  • What are the areas of research interest under the theme of education?

In answering these questions, we looked for evidence of the ‘golden thread’ of impact: a clear connection between a research question, analysis, and an observed change in one of six public good outcomes.

We then delved further into education subthemes – notably evaluation research projects around Key Stage 2 education. Together with leading education research organisations – Fischer Family Trust Education Datalab, Education Policy Institute, National Foundation for Educational Research, and Manchester Institute of Education – we produced four case studies on their research projects that used the ONS Secure Research Service. Each demonstrated impact, showing how their research had influenced education programmes, funding, and policy.

Our work highlighted an interest among researchers in outcomes, inequality, and levelling up. This suggests that many want to improve outcomes in education for children and young people – especially those who may not be gaining maximum benefit from the mainstream system.

To learn more about our findings, you can read the report: ‘Thematic Research Overview: Education’.

What’s next?

Since March 2022, newer education datasets such as Longitudinal Education Outcomes and Growing Up in England have produced publicly available outputs and are achieving impact in the public good. That’s why we plan to review this work periodically, painting a picture of how data analysis is contributing to policy development and public good research.

We have commenced work on our next thematic overview report, which will look at commissioned projects in the ONS Secure Research Service. In addition, we also hope to publish a third thematic review around jobs, skills, and productivity later in the year.

Find out more

To find out more about the ONS Analytical Impact team, visit the ONS website or contact


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