Parent/carer email about postcodes

What precautions do you take to make sure an individual cannot be identified from their postcode?

There are general precautions about the security of our servers which I am sure every good business would adopt, but we make a special effort with postcodes.

I don't know if your child competed the survey online or on paper - the account to be given in each case is slightly different.

Online, the postcodes are encrypted using GnuPG when storing, and downloaded with the encryption intact (screenshot). 

Screenshot 2014-07-30 16.28.29.png

They are decrypted only when the postcode information is required; the decrypted postcode is not stored but discarded once the analysis is complete. The encryption is AES-256, which we believe has never been cracked, even when Government and Police are very keen to see what is on a suspect's computer.

For paper surveys, we store only part of the postcode with the case, replacing the last two letters with "99", like this:

SCHID PUPILID SEX AGE YEAR PCODE Q1 Q2 etc
712 1 0 12 8 9999999 1 0
712 2 0 13 8 SG19399 0 1
712 3 1 13 8 SG19299 0 1
712 4 0 13 8 SG19399 0 0
712 5 0 13 8 SG19399 1 0
etc       

We store the whole postcodes separately from the rest of a pupil's answers as below, tagged with two numbers which together can identify an individual case, and merge the information only when necessary, and don't keep the merged data file.

SCHID PUPILID PCODE1 PCODE2
746 2 CB013 LN
746 3 CB013 LN
746 4 CB013 BN
746 5 CB014 ET
746 6 CB013 PU

We have mostly used postcodes for things like allocating pupils to districts - as a pupil may go to school in one district but live in another.  The reports produced are at the level of district rather than at the pupil level.

Elsewhere, we have used postcodes for allocating deprivation scores, assigning ward-level information, and so on; again, we keep the derived information and discard the postcode. An example of an analysis using deprivation scores is given below:

Topics: 

Comments about SHEU

"I would like to say that this survey was very useful and made me realise things about PE and health that I had never realised before......Food at school is groovy, especially if your school does Jamie Olivers School Dinners. Viva apples and thanks for the survey." Female pupil, 13 yrs old

Female pupil, 13yrs

"This is amazing! Thank you." (school report)

Headteacher

We were all very impressed with the spreadsheet and can see that an incredible amount of work has gone into creating this!

Health Improvement Specialist

"We were talking about (the SHEU survey) data at our recent NSCoPSE Conference, for PSHE advisers and consultants. It would be really helpful if some of this powerful data and the trends could be shared in the consultation around the PSHE Review. Colleagues shared their very positive experiences of (the SHEU survey). It provides excellent evidence of behaviour change for children and young people and of the impact of PSHE and wider interventions."

Personal and Social Development Consultant

Any comments on specific survey questions that may have caused difficulty?
Pupils at our primary school found the questionnaire very easy to understand and most of them completed the questions in less than 45min.

Teacher

"Many thanks for a major contribution to the health of children in the UK and elsewhere over many years and putting in place the continuation of the Unit." Tribute from a Director of Public Health to John Balding, presented at his retirement lunch, May 2005

Director of Public Health

"The Unit is to be congratulated in preparing ... material of the highest standard and worthy of wide dissemination." National Association for Environmental Education

National Association for Environmental Education

"It's good to talk with you again - we used so much of those data and did so much with it in schools - we really got the place buzzing!"

Consultant in Public Health

Any comments on specific survey questions that may have caused difficulty?
All questions are clearly worded and easy to answer

Class teacher

"We did this last year with Year 8 and 10 and was incredibly useful. It is WELL worth doing and so useful to inform PSHE planning. The safeguarding audit team were delighted that we had done it. The findings are so so interesting.
"The findings are really comprehensive and range from what percentage of year 8 have breakfast in the morning to how many have tried this particular drug, to identity, health and sleep patterns, mental health, citizenship issues....
"It's essential for the PSHE and pastoral curriculum."

PSHCEE coordinator