Ethnicity Data Standard

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Title: Ethnicity Data Standard

Standards Profile

ISB STATUS =  ADOPTED.   A controlled list of ethnic categories

System Wide Standard

ISB Decision


The most pressing business need for an Ethnicity Standard came from the Further Education Sector where learning providers (FE Colleges and Schools) were required to report the same information in multiple formats for different central government institutions. This standard will benefit all learning providers, local authorities and central government departments that are required to report on or collect data on Ethnicity.

On 14th May 2009, the ISB approved the 'Ethnicity Data Standard v3.1', however, the board commented that the approval was subject to minor changes that needed to be made.  Since then, 'Ethnicity Data Standard v3.3 has been produced and it is now the standard for immediate use accross the ESCS sector for ethnicity data collection.  A single managed Ethnicity code set and controlled lists for use across Education, Skills and Children’s Service (ESCS).

The standard includes a standardised code list (Section 7), an approach to managing ethnicity categories across ESCS, and guidelines for data collection, aggregation and reporting (Section 8).

The ISB has approved the status of ADOPTED for this standard. The expected benefits of this standard include: reduced costs of collecting ethnicity information, because ethnicity needs to be collected just once and can be used many times; improved statistical relevance of data when compared to other data sets; better targeting of public resources based on better quality of data; reduced costs of adapting to subsequent changes in standard definitions used by ONS.

Ethnicity Data Standard v3.3 is a standard for ethnic categories suitable to be used across ESCS UK-wide. An ethnic category is a named ethnic group recognised by the standard

Previously, there were too many ethnicity code sets and controlled lists in use across ESCS. Although Aligned Data Definitions (ADD) defined ethnicity, it included four different code sets and none of them were identical to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) ethnicity codes.

It was seen as important from a standards and a data sharing perspective that all parts of the ESCS move towards the same standard codes for ethnicity. This would avoid confusion, maximise the ease with which data can be interchanged and minimise changes in the future.

Previously, the ISB agreed that whatever ethnicity categories were to be used across ESCS, it must be possible to aggregate them to the ONS short list of codes in order to preserve the important capability to compare statistics against the national population distribution. The ISB also wished to define ethnicity in such a way as to be “future-proofed” against changes in national reporting requirements. The ISB also wished to standardise the religion code lists. Whilst this standard is directed specifically at ethnicity, it is anticipated that the proposed structure and methodology can be applied, in much the same way, to religion and ethnicity cross-government.

Further Work Recommended

· Review and possible revision in line with the codings used within the 2011 Census.

· Extension to include religion, nationality and language.

Data Management


Data Definitions

Data Dictionary

Sector (escs)

Standards Links

 Click here - to download the Ethnicity Data Standard


Control of the document now lies with the ESCS ISB Data Management SIG who will also manage minor updates to the standard where stakeholders need to extend the detailed categories in any area.

If you want to contact the ESCS ISB Data Management SIG, please email in the first instance.