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 SIMS 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 do not use temporary UPN’s - if you are having difficulty in obtaining a UPN please contact Jax Bougouneau in the School Management Support Team as she may be able to find it for you.

If a pupil attends two schools, the school at which they spend the majority of the time should issue a UPN. If both schools have issued Permanent UPNs then contact the School Management Support Team for further guidance.

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 Sims 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 maintained 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 (1) allocate a temporary UPN and (2) contact the LA (Jax Bougouneau on 01296 383904) to try and retrieve an earlier UPN from the National Database. 

    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. Some, however, may have been issued a UPN if their school had the means to do so. These types of establishment are not statutorily required to issue UPNs to their pupils. If, however, a non-maintained establishment (such as an Independent school, non-maintained Special School, PRU etc) has allocated a UPN and the UPN is correct and valid, that UPN should be retained.

Pupils not attached to any LA maintained school or academy

There are a number of pupils that are not attached to a maintained school or academy in its area, but for whom the LA has responsibility (e.g. pupils attending a non-maintained special school or receiving home education). The LA has allocated UPNs to all such pupils and schools should contact the LA (01296 383904) to receive this information if required.

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

If you need any help or have any questions about UPNs, please contact Jax Bougouneau on 01296 383904, email

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