“If they [schools] do nothing then they risk breaking the law”

4 Mar

All pupils are, legally, entitled to use a ‘subject access request’ under the Data Protection Act (1998) in order to obtain their school records, whether that be on paper or electronic format, if not you can always try the following.

However, as Danielle Hudspith, fellow investigator, soon found out this is easier said than done, in an attempt to gain access to her school records those responsible just seemed to ignore, almost refuse it via various means of contact.

She first contacted her local council:

“Warwickshire County Council informed me I must submit a Subject Access Request to apply for the data held on me. On completion of the form I waited weeks only to be told the council hold no school records at all!”

Danielle then decided to ring up her school directly:

“The receptionist appeared to be perplexed by my request and passed me over to somebody else. I was then informed that I could not have my records. Knowing the law was on my side, I persisted. I eventually got some sense out of someone when they interrupted their colleague to say they were unsure but they thought I could under the data protection act. I assured them this was correct. After a lengthy half an hour debate on the phone, I was told the records would have been passed from my secondary school, Kenilworth School, to my Sixth Form, Castle Sixth Form.

Schools are starting to integrate data systems now, so share records with other schools/educational bodies, local authorities and/or social services so that they themselves can also make use of it how they wish to.

She proceeded to contact the Sixth Form, advised to e-mail a request for her records, the Head of Sixth Form replied:

“Dear Danielle

Hope that you are well. Regarding your e-mail about your records we keep them for 6 years after the student has left and we do collect all of the information that we possibly have on a student. We use this information to help write our references but we never release all of the folder.

Clearly they ignored Danielle’s request, although still believing they held her records, leaving school four years ago and Sixth Form two years ago she tried again:

“Politely I replied and asked yet again if I could actually see my records. To my surprise he declined the request. I then replied again and stated that I am entitled to see them by law. No reply was given”.

Schools should have a ‘fair processing‘ principle in place, requiring them to inform you exactly what this information is, why and how they intend to use it. But as a pupil, teacher and parent describe, it’s not always the case.

With the school seemingly refusing to comply, Danielle complained to the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office):

“A conversation with their help line proved quite useful and surprisingly the woman I spoke to was shocked that the school was not cooperating. When I explained that it wasn’t an isolated incident either she assured me they would be making sure school’s understood their role in supplying information. I was advised to fill in a complaints form which is found on their website under the complaints section. However, whilst helpful, this seems to be a lengthy process. Apart from a confirmation email to say the ICO had received my complaint, no apparent action has been taken. Make no mistake I am confident the issue will be resolved now, but how long will it take?”

After this she did indeed make one more final attempt but received nothing. Danielle’s attempts just proves the act of obtaining information about yourself can for some reason or another give you problems but there are always solutions.

School records do not hold us back, they propel us forward

School records can contain a variety of personal information all about you, collected by the school itself, they almost form the outlook of our future, or do they?

There are many examples of in fact famous people who have successfully proved that having a negative school record does not particularly hold you back from entering into positive further education/career options and shouldn’t do either.

It has been discovered that at Primary School level only the basics are ever recorded resulting in Secondary Schools starting from scratch. Top grades, professional behaviour and 100% attendance may well be of major interest and attention to future employers once you leave school unless you decide to do otherwise in which a school record is not accessed at any stage.

The aspect of school records seems to be something of which ex-students need more education upon itself, as apparently they are almost oblivious to their rights.

ICO give schools a lesson the hard way

With schools simply not co-operating fully, as highlighted above, it makes you wonder whether they even understand the aspect of school records, actually keep them, or the privacy and data security put in place.

Loss of or unauthorised access to such records is most likely to cause harm towards pupils, so schools should keep personal information secure when storing, using and sharing it with others:

“Individuals have a right to take action for compensation if loss of personal data causes them damage. The Information Commissioner now has the power to impose a monetary penalty for serious contraventions of the data protection principles. So not taking security seriously causes a reputational risk and could cost you money”.

– ICO

Can information about you be on someone else’s school record?

3 Mar

There may be cases in which someone else’s school record may hold information about you or vice versa. ICO say, “Where the response includes information about another individual, the request should be considered carefully. There is a duty to consider the rights of the individual making the request and the privacy of any other individuals who may be identified.”

The ‘Subjects Access Right and Third Party Information’ published in 2000 “deals with the potential conflict between an individual’s right of access and a third party individual’s rights to privacy or confidentiality, which can arise when dealing with a subject access request.” The problem of this obviously conflicts with The Data Protection act 1998.

There are several things that need to be addressed when third party information is involved in a request to access school record information;

1. Does the request require the disclosure of information which identifies a third party individual?

It can be possible to comply with the request for school records without revealing the identity of a third party individual. In cases where this is not possible, further steps need to be taken;

2. Has the third party consented?

The third party individual may need to be contacted and asked for their consent for the information to be accessed by the requesting individual. However this of course poses its own challenges; the third party may be hard to find, it could be costly or impractical to locate them or they refuse to consent. In these situations it would be down to the person fulfilling the information request to consider whether it was ‘reasonable in all circumstances’ to disclose the information anyway.

3. Would it be reasonable in all the circumstances to disclose without consent?

The act provides a non-exhaustive list of factors to be taken into account when deciding what would be ‘reasonable in all the circumstances’. These are;

• any duty of confidentiality owed to the third party individual;
• any steps you have taken to try to get the consent of the third party individual;
• whether the third party individual is capable of giving consent; and
• any express refusal of consent by the third party individual.

The person fulfilling the request would need to justify why they thought it was appropriate to disclose the information despite lack or consent.

For more information on accessing school records or other information with third parties involved, click here.

Follow us on twitter @School_Records.

School Records: a waiting game

2 Mar

On behalf of the Data Protection Act, I also recently enquired about my school records as a former student, within the years of 2004-2009 at Aldridge School – A Science College. As a general right, I requested to gain access to personal information about myself gathered from the school –  also whether they could enlighten me with what types of data is stored, why it is stored and whom it may well be passed onto. Upon contacting my school directly via e-mail, I was in fact, quickly met with the following response:

“The law requires schools to keep all student records for 5 years. The information held will be basic information, i.e.  your name, date of birth, also your contact details, school history (junior school, dates at secondary school), and examination results.

We would use this information to confirm details of your time at Aldridge School if you put our name as a reference for a job/college course. We could also by law send this on a password protected file to the Local Authority, another school or social services”.

–          Chris Welch

Headteacher’s PA/HR

Now, this response did indeed shed some light on what I additionally wanted to find out (although it doesn’t represent all schools in England it gives a fair idea) but being only 4 years since I left school, I am therefore yet to be authorized access to my actual school records. That is if they share them, having potentially ignored my request for such personal information in the above contact in which they obviously still store it having stating they keep them for 5 years.

I have since asked the school again for my records and have not yet received a reply.

As a guide, the two kinds of data schools can store upon you are:

Personal data:                      Names, dates of birth, addresses, national insurance numbers, school marks, medical information, exam results, SEN assessments.

Sensitive personal data:     Race and ethnicity, political opinions, religious beliefs, membership of trade unions, physical or mental health, sexuality and criminal offences.

87% don’t know their rights regarding school records

2 Mar

According to a survey conducted by SchoolRecords, we uncovered that 87% of respondents do not know their rights when it comes to their school records.

The survey showed that only 6% of those who took part have actually seen a copy of their school record and 77% are not concerned about what is on their records:

Have you ever seen your school record?

q1

Are you concerned about what is on your school record?

q2

Are you aware of your rights surrounding who has access to your school records?

q3

Data for this study was collected using SurveyMonkey.

Follow us on twitter @School_Records.

“Most secondary schools discount everything”

2 Mar

Throughout the blog there has been many articles on if school records affects peoples lives, what are on school records and the different ways to get hold of them but whilst full attention has been drawn towards school records from secondary school and where they could lead you, no thoughts have been there for primary schools.

Are their records important?

Are they similar to secondary school?

I spoke to Benson Community School teacher, Oliver Wilson, about what he thinks about school records in primary schools.

“In primary school we have very few records that relate to children that are used for anything beyond the year they are in…”

Mr Wilson, Mathematics Coordinator and Specialist Leader of Education, states the difference data of school records from secondary school and what then happens to the data,

“What we do have is a set of levels for Reading, Writing and Maths that is tracked and recorded every term. This data, as well as their end of key stage test results would be all that goes with them to Secondary school, where they get a bit of a re-boot and begin from scratch. We often write a report for their new school, but this only gives a little background.

Most secondary schools discount everything from a Primary and start from scratch.”

It’s very interesting to hear that secondary schools disregard pupils primary school records like it does not matter. It makes me think of the effort of primary school teachers do for pupils school records only to just get re-booted and start again once they reach higher education. Why don’t they keep them?

I asked Mr Wilson a few questions as closure to the inquest.

1. What are in school records

“Data on achievement, results, behaviour, SEN, pastoral and general assessments”

2. Do you only see only certain school records or all of them?

“In my position I can see any of them, but would be only interested in my class, or with a specific child in relation to an incident or request.”

3. Are they important for the future of pupils?

“Only for the next year or so – I do not care what happened 2+ years ago, I would imagine Secondary schools would be the same.”

So, an interesting inquest into the primary school record system and a different angle.
Comment your views, or tweet us @school_records

At what age can a pupil request their school records?

1 Mar

Allowing a pupil access to their school record is generally done on a case-to-case basis. It is largely accepted that if a child is over the age of 12, they are expected to be mature enough to understand what it is they are requesting, however this can change depending on the pupil’s themselves.

The data protection act 1998, in regards to school records and student information, does not specify an age at which a child can legally request a copy of their record. When a request to access their school record is made by a pupil, the person responsible for fulfilling the request should consider the following;

  • Does the pupil want their parent or guardian involved in the request; and
  • Ensuring the pupil fully understands what it is they are requesting.

More information here.

Follow us on twitter @School_Records.

How many complaints do ICO get regarding school records?

28 Feb

According to the Informations Commissioners Office around 4% of complaints received by them were about education, with the majority of that suspected to be regarding school records.

ICO claim to work with schools in the UK to ensure private information regarding pupil’s are dealt with fairly and professionally. They also claim to be “continuously regulating” and reviewing their current policies on data protection and school records.

Follow us on twitter @School_Records.

Will your child’s school record hold them back from getting into a good school?

26 Feb

There are several issues surrounding whether or not a school record could hold a child back. If a child is in a catchment area of an institution, excluding grammar schools, then they automatically have a place in that school, despite whether or not their school record is good or bad. However, if a pupil is requesting admission to a school outside of the catchment area, then the school in question may want to see the pupil’s school record.

To find out your child’s catchment area click here.

Follow us on twitter @School_Records.

Good records = success?

26 Feb

There has been a debate on this blog as to whether school records affect your future. Do good records necessarily mean a good future? Maybe not. What about, bad records leading to a bad life? Not true. I remember when I received one of my last school records whilst in High School, and with those I was determined to go onto College and, perhaps University. Many years later, I’m in University doing yet more education, but that’s because I want to do well in life. There were some people I knew that got jobs, apprenticeships, or joined the army after leaving school. Perhaps the reason why they didn’t get into higher education were rubbish school records, but we don’t know that for sure.

There are many examples of people who have had poor school records but have become highly successful. The Telegraph constructed an article that emphasizes everything that this blog and this post has and is the story of a Cambridge University professor SIR John Gurdon, who in turn has poor school records but becomes a Nobel Prize for his work in medicine.

I asked Paul Lemon, who is a bank manager, and what he thinks about the school records system;

“My only thoughts are that when it comes to school records the only records that count are your exam grades ….. I would be surprised if any employer looks beyond your exam grades because they are a good enough indication of whether you’re the type of person who can get your head down when it matters and get things done ….. When you go out and start working then its the reference from the employer that carries a lot of weight”

Website HowStuffWorks conducted a list of 15 global famous people that got dropped out of school and have become influential people all over the world. Here is a breakdown of that list, but to read the full 15 people and their stories, click on the link above.

Thomas Edison – Creator of the lightbulb – Dropped out of school after 3 months
 Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft, richest person in the world – Dropped out of Harvard.
– Albert Einstein – Scientist – Dropped out at 15.
– Walt Disney – Founder of Disney (Thankyou) – Dropped at 16 to join army.
– Richard Branson – Founder of Virgin – Quit at 16

Some surprising names in that list, but it just proves that school records does not matter. Not that we are condemning school attendence and if you’re thinking about not going then check this article out by The Press about a fine given to a non-attending child.

Photo By Pete Souza.
Barack Obama became USA President after having poor school records.

Daily Mail produced an article on Barack Obama and his school records, after evidence of his school life came out.

“Average SAT score of Obama’s 1981 transfer group to Columbia was 1,100. Bush got into Yale with score of 1,206 out of 1,600. Obama refuses to release his academic record”

This shows us that even the most powerful people in the world had poor school records, so why do they matter.

Does your school use ‘fair processing’?

25 Feb

Schools should have in place a fair processing or privacy notice to parents and pupils before or as soon as they obtain your personal information. This principle simply means schools must be clear and transparent about how they will use the personal information they collect.

The Data Protection Act does not recommend a particular privacy notice format; it could therefore be in a school prospectus, an information pack, on a website or in a separate document.

For schools:

“If you record personal details for specific purposes, say for counselling, you may need a privacy notice specifically for them. If you publish a general privacy notice on a website, you need to consider communication to families without easy web access”.

–      ICO

The important thing is to tell parents and pupils what personal information you are collecting and why:

“Make sure your notice mentions the purpose and use of any CCTV and the use you may make of photos of staff and pupils. Unless properly managed, friction can arise from putting identifiable images of pupils on a website or school publication – a form of processing personal data”.

–      ICO

Fair processing also requires a school to control access to personal information, only to staff and governors who need particular data to do their jobs when they actually need it too. This covers access to written and electronic pupil records, so efficient procedures are necessary to control such access to paper and electronic records containing personal information.