DfE school database now available without authentication. Transparency's been restored

Janet Downs's picture

How quickly events move on!  On Saturday I complained I could no longer access the publicly-available school database.  I accused the Department for Education (DfE) of being less than transparent.

But today things have changed.  A new database, Get Information About Schools, (GIAS) has gone live and does not require authentication.

GIAS is clearer that Edubase, the database it’s replaced.  It’s easy to find a school – just type in its name.  I found my way round quickly by clicking on the tabs - Details; Governance; Links; Location – at the top of each school record.  And it’s also possible to search easily for academy trusts.  

All the details are present (including a map) although I was surprised some of the Ofsted judgements for schools I searched for were given as ‘Unknown’ despite there being a link to an existing Ofsted report.

In theory, it’s possible to search for closed schools by unticking the box which says ‘Include open schools only’.  But not all closed schools appeared.  For example, the closed Durham Free School is listed but the closed Discovery Free School isn’t.   CET Primary School Westminster, the predecessor to The Minerva Academy, isn’t listed either and there’s no link given between Minerva and CET Westminster.

Such omissions make it difficult to trace the history of schools.  This also applies to academies that have changed trusts.  GIAS shows a new trust as having run a transferred academy from the day it became an academy instead of the later changeover date.  This airbrushes out the involvement of other academy trusts.    

Academy Trusts which have wound up still appear but are listed as having no academies.  This is useful as it removes the need to search Company House records.  This might still be necessary if you wanted to discover the date of incorporation however.  Some GIAS records show this as 01/01/1900.

Although I think it’s important that GIAS fully records changes to school status, sponsorship or changes in academy trusts, it is an improvement on Edubase. Its success, however, will depend on how often educational establishments update their data.  Nevertheless, it must have been a mammoth task transferring data from Edubase to GIAS.  Congratulations, then, to the statistical boffins at the DfE for getting GIAS going.






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