Longitudinal Education Outcomes for Northern Ireland - a data linkage initiative

The Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) database enables research about career paths of individuals from school to work.

April 2023 update on LEO for Northern Ireland

The Education Outcomes Linkage (EOL) 2018/19 dataset is now available for research purposes.

The EOL 2018/19 is a longitudinal relational database comprised of a range of tables containing post primary schools’ data for pupils aged 14 and over in Northern Ireland. It is the first stage of the development of a LEO database for Northern Ireland. The EOL links together a number of datasets held by the Department of Education (DE) in Northern Ireland; the Schools Census (including Attendance data), School Leavers Survey and Exams Database.

More information on the EOL is available on the NISRA website.

The second phase of the development of a LEO database for Northern Ireland has commenced and further updates will be provided as the project progresses.

October 2022 update on LEO for Northern Ireland

The first phase of the LEO for Northern Ireland project is the development of an Education Outcomes Linkage (EOL) dataset; a longitudinal education dataset of post primary schools’ data for pupils (aged 14-18) in Northern Ireland.

To create the EOL dataset, the Department of Education (DE) has been working with the Administrative Data Research Northern Ireland (ADR NI)1 team within the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Analytical Services staff within the Department for the Economy (DfE) have also been closely involved with the project, providing input to the development of the dataset.

DE and ADR NI intend to release the EOL dataset in Spring 2023. It will be made available for secure access by accredited researchers, after approval from DE and the UK Statistics Authority Research Accreditation Panel.

The EOL dataset will become the foundation of LEO for Northern Ireland. The second phase of the LEO for Northern Ireland project will involve linking education outcomes data for pupils with outcomes from apprenticeships, training, further education and higher education. An indicative timeline for the second phase will be provided once available. Further phases of the LEO for Northern Ireland project will involve linking employment and earnings data and also benefits data.

1 ADR NI is part of the ESRC funded ADR UK initiative; further details are available at ADR UK

February 2020 update on LEO for Northern Ireland

Analytical Services staff are working with colleagues across the NICS and wider UK government to establish data sharing agreements, so that the creation of the LEO database for Northern Ireland is done on a lawful basis. The legislation which underpins the data shares in Great Britain is not in effect in Northern Ireland and therefore the data sharing negotiations are complex.

A further update will be provided once an agreement for the creation of the database has been reached, including an approximate timescale and information on the legal basis for the data linkage. 

Background to the LEO study

The Longitudinal Education Outcomes Study was formally established in Great Britain in 2015, when the passing of the Education and Skills Act (2008) and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act (2015) authorised the linkage of education data, benefits and training data and Revenue and Customs information for the purposes of assessing the effectiveness of educational provision.

This ability to identify where people are at key transition phases provides very powerful evidence about the impact of policy and the direction of social and economic change.

Questions about social inclusion, social mobility, what people can expect to earn given their educational and social backgrounds are of great importance. The LEO database enables research on these questions to be conducted.

Further information, including available statistical releases, are available from the Department for Education (England), Welsh Government and Scottish Government.

LEO database for Northern Ireland 

DfE Analytical Services Unit intends to develop a linked database of de-identified individuals which will include personal information relating to their education, employment and benefit claims in order to:

  • provide statistical information to support education and career decisions
  • evaluate and monitor the impact of education or training on outcomes and help to support the outcomes based approach of the draft Programme for Government
  • support government decision making which will lead to improved services.

In order to create the LEO database, the department must comply with a number of physical security, ethical and legal requirements including the data protection principles set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, which is the UK's implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Access to the database will be restricted to those NICS staff who are involved in the production of analyses and stringent disclosure control measures will be applied to ensure that no individuals can be identified from the research outputs.

Public engagement

Public engagement events explaining the background to the project will take place as the project develops. Further details will be made available via the DfE website in due course.

Contact us

We welcome the views of the public on this proposed initiative. If you have any comments, or wish to make further enquiries please contact us at analyticalservices@economy-ni.gov.uk.  

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