Education Outcomes Linkage (EOL) 2018/19

Education Outcomes Linkage (EOL) 2018/19

1. Introduction

1.1 Administrative Data Research in Northern Ireland (ADR NI)

Since 2013 the UK Government, through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), has funded NISRA (in partnership with the Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University) to host an Administrative Data Research Centre in Northern Ireland (known as the ADR NI and which is part of the wider ADR UK).  The thrust of the initiative has been to provide a secure and accredited research environment to enable agreed, ethically approved and cross-cutting research to be conducted using administrative data sets that are routinely collected and analysed by NICS departments and other bodies. The ultimate aims of the joined-up approach are to inform the development and monitoring of public policy and to help ensure that decision making is evidence based and the research provides a benefit to society. The ADR NI makes it possible for trained and accredited researchers to use de-identified administrative data for social and economic research, while making sure the data remain safe and the privacy of individuals and businesses are protected.


1.2 Education Outcomes Linkage (EOL) 2018/19

The Education Outcomes Linkage (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 Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO[1]) 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.

The EOL comprises a suite of datasets which can be linked via an anonymised unique pupil number. Data is available for pupils who are present in the 2018/19 School Census and who also have an exam outcome in the 2018/19 academic year (EOL Core Members). The 2018/19 EOL contains the following data for EOL Core Members:

  • School Census 2018/19 and 2015/16-2017/18 (where available);
  • School Attendance 2015/16-2018/19 (where available);
  • School Leavers Survey 2018/19 (where applicable); and
  • Exams Database up to and including 2018/19.


2. Background

2.1 Education Outcomes Linkage (EOL) 2018/19 Data sources

As already outlined, the EOL contains data from the School Census. The School Census is conducted in October of each year and provides a count of all pupils enrolled in schools in Northern Ireland. The School Census gathers details on, for example, pupil gender, year group, religion, ethnicity and special educational needs. School information is also included, for example, school type and school management type. The School Census exercise also collects information on attendance for each academic year, including information on the levels of absence, type of absence and reason for absence. 

The EOL links variables from the School Census to variables in the School Leavers Survey and the Exams Database. The School Leavers Survey collects data annually on the qualifications and destinations of Northern Ireland post-primary school leavers. It includes pupils who have left the school system in the preceding academic year.

The Exams Database is created using examination and pupil data extracted from the school IT system (SIMS) as part of the annual School Census process. It includes information for all current pupils (at the time of the Census) as well as for all school leavers during the previous academic year. The Exams Database includes exams taken in the current year and previous exams by the pupil.


2.2 Areas of research interest

The EOL has been developed in order to advance research across a range of themes. The EOL can offer an evidence base for policy development and decision making as well as the monitoring of public policy in Northern Ireland. It can do this by allowing a number of research questions to be considered. These include the best predictors of educational attainment, the impact of Free School Meals, an exploration of Special Educational Needs (SEN) outcomes, the impact of geographical comparisons, ethnicity, religion, and first language on exam performance. The EOL will form the foundation of the LEO database in Northern Ireland through which a broader range of research goals can be met.


2.3 Linkage method

The EOL tables are linkable via an anonymised unique pupil number. Researchers will be permitted to link longitudinally (where data is available) and across each of the datasets for pupils included in the EOL Core (are present in the School Census and have an exam outcome). Further information on the EOL Core can be found in the EOL guidance document.


3. The data

3.1 Variables included in the EOL

A list of variables available within the EOL can be found in the EOL variable list. Further background information including detail related to the variables are available within the EOL guidance document. Researchers should note that an EOL univariate synthetic dataset has been developed and can be made available to researchers upon application to the Research Support Unit (RSU).


3.2 Accessing the EOL data

Access to the EOL dataset is limited to researchers and research teams with accredited researcher status under the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA) and subject to approval by each of the data providers and the UK Statistics Authority Research Accreditation Panel (RAP). In the first instance, researchers should complete the Themed Datasets Initial Research Proposal Form and submit this to The proposal form asks researchers to summarise the main aim and objectives of the proposed project as well as the methodological approach that they are intending to use. Researchers must also include details of the data required (including a variable list with justification) and cohort required. Details of any public engagement activities planned as part of their project must also be included. RSU, in consultation with the data providers, will determine the feasibility of the project prior to the completion of a full application by the researcher(s). Further information on how to apply for approval is available here.


4. Other useful information

4.1 Organisation name

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)

ADR UK - Administrative Data Research UK


4.2 Quality/background documentation

School Census – Data Collection and validation

School Leavers – Data Collection and validation


Contact the team

Research Support Unit
Colby House
Stranmillis Court

Telephone: +44(0) 28 90 388488


Web page: Research Support Unit


[1] The Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) was developed by the Department for Education, England and is a dataset which connects individuals’ education data with their earnings, benefits and tax data. There are also Scottish and Welsh equivalents.