Unique Pupil Numbers (UPNs)

Unique Pupil Numbers (UPNs)

A Unique Pupil Number (UPN) is a number that identifies each pupil in England uniquely. A UPN is allocated to each pupil according to a nationally specified formula on first entry to school (or in some cases earlier), and is intended to remain with the pupil throughout their school career regardless of any change in school or local authority (LA).

A similar compatible system has been introduced for learners in maintained schools in Wales. Independent schools are not required to issue UPNs for their learners although many have done so on a voluntary basis.

It is important to ensure that each pupil on roll at your school has a valid UPN. UPNs are generated automatically by your Management Information System (MIS) when a pupil first enters the maintained schools sector using the following template: 

If a pupil has joined you from another school he or she should have been issued with a UPN which will be transferred electronically in a Common Transfer File (CTF).

Contact the pupil’s previous school and request a CTF. If you do not have the contact details then use the government website.

Please avoid issuing a temporary UPN if at all possible - check with the previous school to obtain the permanent UPN instead.

If a pupil attends two schools, the school at which they spend the majority of the time should issue a UPN.

What to do if you issue a UPN, then find that that pupil already has a UPN.

If this happens then you will need to remove the most recent UPN (the one issued by yourself) and replace it with the original UPN. The UPN assigned first should always be the one used. If you need advice on how to do this please contact your ICT MIS support provider for further guidance.

However if a UPN has been used for registering a pupil for Key Stage assessments, then that UPN should be kept for data continuity purposes. Any previous UPN will automatically be recorded as a “Former UPN”.

Allocating a UPN

UPNs should be allocated on a pupil’s first entry to a maintained school in England, including entry to a nursery school or a nursery class in an infant or primary school.

There are 3 situations which schools should consider when issuing UPN's:

  1. Pupils who are entering school for the first time, including entry to a nursery class should be allocated a permanent UPN;

  2. Pupils transferring to the school from another state funded school in England should already have a UPN. If the previous school: 

    - has passed on the pupil's UPN, then the school should adopt that UPN 

    However, if the UPN provided is invalid, then the school should (a) check that it has been keyed in correctly, and (b) check with the previous school (or the LA) that it has been provided correctly. If it still proves to be invalid the school should allocate a permanent UPN to the pupil instead.

    - has failed to pass on the pupil's UPN, then the school should try to retrieve the UPN from the Get Information About Pupils service (see section below). 

    If, after a temporary UPN has been allocated, an earlier permanent UPN for the pupil is retrieved, then the school should replace the temporary one with the earlier UPN. If there is not an earlier permanent UPN available then schools should issue the pupil with a permanent UPN.

  3. Pupils transferring to the school from a non-maintained school or from any school outside England are unlikely to have been allocated a UPN, but you can check for these on the Get Information About Pupils service. Some, however, may have been issued a UPN if their school had the means to do so, or some may have been allocated a UPN by their LA in some circumstances. Where the pupil has been allocated a UPN and the UPN is correct and valid, that UPN should be retained.

Checking for a UPN on the Get Information About Pupils service

Get Information About Pupils (GIAP) allows users to search for and download pupils’ identifiers (including UPN), end of Key Stage results data and their contextual indicators, including Pupil Premium information. GIAP allows all users to search by names and date of birth.

To access the GIAP website you need to log-on to the DfE Secure Access website (DfE Sign-in ( and then select Get Information About Pupils.  Each school has a super user/approver who controls access to school users, and can add these services to your log-on. Unfortunately the LA is unable to assist with log-on problems, but help resources are available by clicking on the ‘Need Help?’ button on the initial log-in pages.

Once you have located the pupil record on GIAP you can download the information in CTF format, which will import into your MIS and save you having to type the details in.

Further information about UPNs can be found on the DfE website:
DfE UPN guidance


Was this page helpful?

Very poor
Neither good nor poor
Very good