Secondary data analysis of British population cohort studies: A practical guide for education researchers

Sophie Nicole Cave, Sophie von Stumm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Britain is rich in longitudinal population cohort studies that posit valuable data resources for social science. However, education researchers currently underutilize these resources. Aims: The current paper (1) outlines the power and benefits of secondary data analyses for educational science and (2) provides a practical guide for education researchers on the characteristics, data, and accessibility of British population cohort studies. Methods: We identified eight British population cohort studies from the past 40 years that collected scholastic performance data during primary and secondary schooling, including (1) Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC), (2) Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), (3) Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE), (4) Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), (5) Born in Bradford (BiB), (6) Next Steps (LYSPE1), (7) Understanding Society (US), and (8) Our Future (LYSPE2). Participants across these studies were born between 1989 and 2010, and followed up at least once and up to 68 times, over periods of 7 to 29 years. For each study, we summarize here the context and aims, review the assessed variables, and describe the process for accessing the data. Conclusions: We hope this article will encourage and support education researchers to widely utilize existing population cohort studies to further advance education science in Britain and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12386
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Early online date24 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A total of 13,858 children, born between March 2007 and December 2010 at Bradford Royal Infirmary, were recruited as part of the BiB study ( ; Wright et al., 2013 ). The project, commissioned by the Programme Grants for Applied Research funding scheme and National Institute for Health (NIH) Research Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care, explores well‐being, genetics and family environments. All children were assessed by health workers at 2 weeks, 7 weeks, and 8 months old. Several sub‐studies evolved in conjunction with different funding bodies, including for example Born in Bradford’s Better Start (BiBBS; Dickerson et al., 2016 ).

Funding Information:
Established in 1997, The EPPSE Project aimed to explore the impact of early year’s education across development (‐projects/2020/sep/effective‐pre‐school‐primary‐and‐secondary‐education‐project‐eppse ). Over 3,000 children were tracked from the start of pre‐school, at 3 years old, through primary school at the ages of 6, 7, 10, and 11 years, and during secondary education at ages 14 and 16 years (Taggart, Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, & Siraj, 2015 ). The project was funded by the DfE and ran from 1997 to 2013, with no further assessment waves currently planned.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 British Psychological Society

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • education
  • longitudinal
  • population cohort studies
  • school performance
  • secondary data analysis

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