ADR UK Research Fellows: Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education linked datasets fellowships

This is the second funding call to be launched as part of the ADR UK Research Fellowships scheme, following the Data First magistrates’ and Crown Court fellowship.

Find out more about the Research Fellows and their projects below.

Dr Hannah Dickson

Education and social care predictors of offending trajectories: An administrative data linkage study

Dr Hannah Dickson is a lecturer in forensic and neurodevelopmental science and will be using national crime records linked to educational and social care records. The project aims to see whether it is possible to identify those children and adolescents who are more likely to become persistent offenders before involvement with the criminal justice system begins. This will help influence decisions on how best to support them, potentially reducing criminal offending and its associated social and economic costs.

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This project aims to explore the following research questions:

  • What are the offending trajectories of individuals born on, or after, 31 August 1985 up to 31 August 1999?
  • Which administrative education and social care record data is most helpful in predicting these specific offending trajectories?

The methodology used in this study:

The proposed 12-month project will use a retrospective cohort design. The project will link the individuals identified in the crime dataset, with the care and education datasets:

  • National crime records for individuals born on, or after, 31 August 1985 up to and including 31 August 1999 
  • Linked to these individuals’ prior educational and social care records.

The project will first use a statistical analysis approach called latent class analysis to identify different trajectories of offending behaviours following a first recorded conviction or caution.

Then the project will adopt a statistical learning approach, to see if it can identify the education and social care predictors of the different types of offending patterns or trajectories. The identification of children and young people at higher risk for persistent offending has the potential to inform early intervention approaches and criminal justice responses to reduce offending and by extension contribute to evidence-based policy making.

Duration: 12 months starting in January 2022

Funding: £127,575.80


Dr Anna Leyland

How do differing rates and modes of child welfare service interventions impact upon educational and criminal justice outcomes of vulnerable children?

Anna Leyland, Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, will use the linked MoJ-DfE dataset to examine how application of different child welfare service interventions impact upon educational engagement and criminal justice involvement. In doing so, this research may help explain current trends of disproportionate negative outcomes for young people with 'child in need' or 'looked after child' status.

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This project aims to explore the following research questions:

  • What risk or protective effect does support from child welfare services during childhood offer education engagement and attainment, and involvement in the criminal justice system, when other multi-systemic factors are controlled for?
  • Are the outcomes for child educational attainment and engagement, and engagement with the criminal justice system following intervention from child welfare services fair and impartial across local authorities?
  • What is the effect of a child’s age at first identification of welfare needs and the duration and degree of subsequent social welfare intervention, on education attainment and engagement with the criminal justice system?

The methodology used in this study:

  • Research question one will use multilevel models to explore the effects of different modes of child welfare service interventions (none, child in need, child looked after) on:
    • education attainment (maths and English GCSE level 5 or above)
    • education engagement (number of unauthorised absences, temporary or permanent school exclusion)
    • criminal justice service outcomes (convictions: none, one, two or more).
  • The second research question will use the same data sources and knowledge from the research question one, but the effects will be placed in the geographical context of the local authority. Specifically, for this question, income inequality and child welfare service intervention rates for each local authority area will be added as an additional predictor in the model.
  • Research question three will build again on the previous research questions and analysis to explore the effects of modes of child welfare service interventions at different ages and stages of development on education and criminal justice outcomes. It will also take account of the influences of multisystemic risk and protective factors.

Duration: 12 months starting in January 2022

Funding: £121,944


Dr Katie Hunter

Understanding the intersections between care experiences and ethnicity in criminal justice involvement

Dr. Katie Hunter, postdoctoral researcher at Lancaster University, will explore the role of both ethnicity and care experience for individuals who become involved with the criminal justice system. This will address an important gap in knowledge with regards the intersections between ethnicity and looked after status in offending and criminal justice involvement.

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This project aims to explore the following research questions:

  • What proportion of individuals have experience of the looked after system and what are the details of offending?
  • Does offending profile vary according to ethnicity and/or legal status and placement type?
  • How do care experienced and non-care experienced individuals’ sentence lengths compare for three offence types (actual bodily harm, robbery and possession of an article with blade or point), and do these relationships vary by ethnicity?
  • How do factors (offender characteristics, legal status, placement type) impact frequency of offending for care experienced individuals?

The methodology used in this study:

  • Individuals with experience of the looked after care system will be identified. Descriptive statistics will enable the offending profiles (offence type, frequency and disposal) of care experienced individuals to be produced and disaggregated by ethnicity and/or legal status and placement type.
  • For each offence type, log-transformed custodial sentence length will be considered using logistic regression. Ethnicity and care experience will be included as key variables in these models, while also controlling for gender and court type.
  • Where appropriate, multilevel models will be used to account for individuals who have multiple disposals within the offence types.
  • Linear regression will be used to measure average frequency of proven offences for care experienced and non-care experienced individuals over a specified time frame, accounting for exposure to periods of imprisonment. Multilinear regression models will then be used to explore the extent to which ethnicity, legal status and placement type impact upon average frequency of proven offences for care experienced individuals.

Duration: 12 months starting in January 2022

Funding: £118,962.17


Ms. Alice Wickersham

The longitudinal association between school performance trajectories and offending behaviour

Alice Wickersham is a PhD Student at the National Institute for Health Research Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre, King's College London. She will use linked National Pupil Database and Police National Computer data to investigate school performance as a key predictor of offending behaviour.

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This project aims to explore the following research questions:

  • Are young people with lower or decreasing school performance trajectories more likely to commit any offence after Key Stage 4 (up to age 21 years), as compared to higher or improving trajectories?
  • Is school performance trajectory associated with re-offending?
  • Does school performance trajectory modify the risk for different types of offending behaviour in vulnerable and marginalised groups? This may include socioeconomically disadvantaged, special educational needs and looked after children.
  • Are the identified patterns in school performance trajectories and offending risk consistent across different regions of the United Kingdom?
  • Are there discrepancies in gender and ethnicity data between the National Pupil Database and Police National Computer, and how can these be reconciled?
  • What is the potential for conducting quasi-experimental trials using the data linkage, to investigate whether interventions such as special educational needs provision mitigate offending risk?

The methodology used in this study:

  • The project will use growth mixture modelling to analyse latent school performance trajectories over Key Stages 1, 2 and 4. Regional differences by local authority will be explored. An advisory group comprising young people will be consulted on the optimal number of trajectories to accept in the final model. The resulting trajectories will be contextualised using published national school performance data from the same timeframe.
  • The latent school performance trajectories will then be used as an exposure variable in regression models. Outcomes will be offending after Key Stage 4 (ages 17 to 21), and reoffending. Different types of offending will also be examined, using Home Office offence codes such as violence, robbery and sexual offences.
  • The project will then use multilevel regression modelling to investigate interactions between school performance trajectory and pupil characteristics in predicting offending risk after Key Stage 4 (ages 17 to 21) while investigating clustering at the local authority level. Pupil characteristics of interest include gender, ethnicity, free school meals eligibility, special education needs status and looked after child status.
  • Finally, descriptive comparisons of gender and ethnicity recordings in the National Pupil Database and Police National Computer will be conducted to identify discrepancies.  Descriptive explorations of interventions such as special educational needs provision will also be conducted to scope the feasibility of using these variables for quasi-experimental trials. This will be informed by the findings of a feasibility study funded by ADR UK and being undertaken by Dr Rosie Cornish, University of Bristol, who is a senior advisor on this proposal.

Duration: 12 months starting in January 2022

Funding: £130,000


Dr William Cook

School funding, pupil performance and crime: a quasi-experimental study

Dr William Cook, Senior Lecturer in Economics, will test whether two historic school funding programmes that have been shown to have raised academic attainment also had the effect of reducing the chances of pupils committing crime while in education and/or afterwards into adulthood. The results of the study may have wide implications for how we think about the benefits of increased expenditure on schools, beyond simply improving academic results.

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This project aims to explore the following research questions:

  • Did school funding programmes that are known to have increased pupil performance, also have the effect of reducing crime, both in the short and the long term?
  • What are the potential benefits of this linked dataset for other researchers, policy stakeholders and the public?

The methodology used in this study:

  • This project will use estimated regression discontinuity models of crime. Regression discontinuity models are based around the idea that if a policy is implemented on an institution (e.g., school, local authority) according to passing a certain threshold value of a continuous variable, then any ‘jump’ in outcomes observed at this threshold can be interpreted as the causal effect of the policy, subject to identifying assumptions.
  • Two education funding policies will be evaluated separately (i.e., not within the same set of models): Excellence in Cities and the Leadership Incentive Grant.
  • In both cases the analysis will test for heterogeneity in effects, i.e., whether the programmes’ impact varies depending on pupil, school, and area level characteristics.

Duration: 12 months starting in December 2021

Funding: £92,474

Categories: Research using linked data, ADR UK Research Fellows, ADR England, Office for National Statistics, Children & Young People, Crime & Justice

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