May 11, 2022

Data from local authorities on the use of Sure Start – Institute For Fiscal Studies children’s centers

As part of their research into the effectiveness of early childhood policies, IFS researchers sometimes use data on attendance at Sure Start children’s centers, owned by local authorities.

The data

Many local authorities have historical records of the use of Sure Start Children’s Centers in management information systems. These records contain child-level information about children attending local authority Sure Start centers on a given day, as well as information about activities or services they have accessed and the characteristics of the children.

In total, these datasets contain personal information about the children (name, address, date of birth), characteristics (gender and ethnicity) and what services the children attended, in which center and on what day. This data was collected by local authorities to assist in the delivery of Sure Start services and programs.

We use extracts from this data based on the information we need to conduct our research. We do not receive any information that directly identifies you, such as your name or address. We also never access personal information, such as names, full address, and full date of birth. However, as the data we use is sometimes very detailed, there is a low risk that you will be identified, which is why your data is protected by law. To reduce this risk, we perform data minimization. This means that we only ask for and receive the information we need to carry out our research. Different research questions use different data extracts to ensure that we only access data that is strictly necessary for the purpose in question, and any access to the data is strictly limited to named researchers working on this research project.

Why do we use the data

Research using local authority Sure Start attendance data aims to shed light on the activities that have taken place at Sure Start centers and attendance patterns among different groups of children. This complements other strands of work that investigate the impact of Sure Start on children’s outcomes, as it provides insight into the potential mechanisms behind the positive effects. We only deal with a subset of children – those who attended Sure Start during its primary expansion period (approximately 2000 to 2010).

The processing of traffic data from the Sure Start local authority includes:

  • Creating summary statistics
  • Use of statistical and modeling techniques to answer research questions

How long will we keep the data?

Sure Start local authority traffic data is kept for the duration of a research project with the exact duration decided by the local authority from which we receive the data. Typically this is between 5-10 years, the time required to undertake long-term projects and to allow for reanalysis and submission to academic journals.

How do we take care of your data?

Data is securely stored on IFS premises in an encrypted folder on their secure network and is very tightly controlled. All researchers are monitored and trained and access is limited only to researchers working on the project. In addition, IFS has external data security accreditation – we are ISO27001: 2013 compliant and we are Cyber-Essentials approved.

We ensure that all of our researchers who use this data receive training on how to use the data securely and that the researchers hold ‘Accredited Researcher’ status within the UK Data Service’s secure lab. Only accredited researchers working on projects deemed to be of public interest can use the data, and they can only use it to answer specific research questions that have been approved in advance. We will only ever post undisclosed releases, which means it will be impossible to identify you from anything posted.

Legal basis for data use

Our legal basis for processing this data is: legitimate interest, article 6 (1) (f). We have a legitimate interest in conducting sound, non-commercial social and economic research to inform research and policy.

Because this data sometimes contains information about your ethnicity, it is classified as special category data. Our legal basis for processing this special category data is:

Article 9, paragraph 2 j, the processing is necessary for archival purposes in the public interest, for scientific or historical research purposes or for statistical purposes

Your rights

This web page is designed to inform you about how we use your data.

Because we cannot identify you and we do not have direct control over the data, it is not possible for us to process other requests while respecting your rights. If you would like to exercise any of your rights, please contact your local authority’s early support team. They will process your request and any outcome of your request will be sent to us by them.

If you have a complaint, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

Our contact details

If you would like to discuss how we use your data, please contact Sarah Cattan or you can write to her at

The Institute for Fiscal Studies
7 Ridgmount Street

If you have any concerns about how we use your data, please contact the Data Protection Officer. You must send an email to or write to them at the above address.

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