ECHILD: Linking children’s health and education data for England

ECHILD stands for Education and Child Health Insights from Linked Data. The study involves the linking of around 14 million children’s records, which will be used to better understand how education affects children’s health and how health affects children’s education.

The ECHILD project is led by University College London in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in partnership with NHS Digital and the Department for Education, working with the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The dataset

The ECHILD Database will bring together information about health, education and social care for all children in England for the first time. The project will link two key data sources:

  • The National Pupil Database (NPD) – which holds a wide range of information about students who attend schools and colleges in England.
  • Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) – which includes information on hospital admissions, A&E attendances and outpatient appointments in NHS hospitals in England. 

What is the potential of this newly linked data?

The data linkage will facilitate research across a range of health and social science disciplines and will support research to improve policymaking for children’s health, education and wellbeing. Strategic research, based on an existing linked education-HES dataset of two million children, will validate linkage and other aspects of data quality, generate policy-relevant exemplar research and metadata for wider use of the ECHILD Database, and support public involvement.

Key questions the dataset could help to address

The ECHILD Database will first be used to understand how disruptions to services during the national lockdown in Spring 2020 affected children’s health and education. The work will focus on children who require extra support, as they may have been most affected by the changes to services. This includes children with chronic physical and mental health conditions, receiving special educational needs support or who are in care. The results of this work will help policymakers and services make plans as we all learn to live with Covid-19.

In addition, the ECHILD Database could help to answer the following questions:

  • How can linked data improve health and education for children with chronic physical or mental health conditions in England?
  • How can we better understand the health-related drivers of educational outcomes in England?
  • How can we use this resource to improve the quality and equity of health and education provision in England?

The ECHILD Database will be made available to external researchers via the ONS Secure Research Service down the line. Researchers will need to be approved and submit a successful application to access the data. Check back here for more information about accessing the linked data as an approved researcher soon.

Engaging the public

The ECHILD team is working with patient, pupil, parents and public engagement groups, and information governance bodies to develop a vision and access framework to promote ethical, safe and effective research access to the ECHILD Database. More details coming soon.

Project details

  • Principal investigator: Professor Ruth Gilbert, University College London
  • Funding amount: £334,509
  • Duration: May 2020 – October 2021

This project is funded via the ADR UK Strategic Hub Fund, a dedicated fund for commissioning research using newly linked administrative data, in consultation with the Research Commissioning Board (RCB). Details of the funding grant awarded for this project can also be found on the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Gateway to Research.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is also funding the ECHILD project team to examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown on vulnerable groups of children.

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