In 2022, teachers and schools have a lot of responsibilities toward their pupils. So, in this article, we’ll be tackling the question, ‘does a teacher have a responsibility to protect their pupil’s information?’
In today’s world, schools and teachers face an increasing amount of responsibility when it comes to safeguarding pupils. Increases in data protection breaches in schools have added to the pressure faced by education professionals.
In this article, we’ll be examining the responsibilities of schools and teachers in protecting pupils’ information…
What are Pupil Data Breaches?
Data breaches occur when information held by a company or organization is leaked either deliberately or inadvertently to others. This is without the permission of the owner of the data.
When data breaches occur in schools and other educational institutions, they can have serious consequences. If private information such as a child’s contact details or information about a condition, or the parents’ financial information gets into the hands of a third party.
What Kind of Data Needs to be Protected?
Schools collate, store, and share a huge amount of data, and this can include:
- Pupil contact information, such as home address and telephone number
- Pupil academic records
- Pupil exam and test results
- Pupil personal information, such as illnesses or conditions
- Pupil disciplinary records
- Staff contact information
- Staff reviews and disciplinary procedures
- Parental information, such as contact details and meeting notes
The school must ensure that it keeps strict records on what data is being collected and how it is being used – including who has access to that data and when.
Who is Responsible for Protecting Pupils’ Data?
Every educational institution in the UK is required to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This is to notify them of the data which is being collated and stored. The ICO will want to know things such as the source of the data, how the data will be used, and whom the data will be shared with. Schools must re-register with the ICO on an annual basis, and failing to do so is a criminal offense that can result in prosecution.
In most cases, a school will appoint a data controller who will assume ultimate responsibility for protecting the data of pupils and staff. Hiring a professional data controller helps a school to keep on top of protecting data and means that any potential breaches can be dealt with quickly. Depending on a school’s budget, a data controller may be a dedicated member of staff, an outsourced agency, or an existing member of staff who has been trained in data protection.
A school’s headteacher is responsible for overseeing everything to do with the school. Moreover, it’s the responsibility of the headteacher to request reports and updates on data protection for pupils and staff. In the event of a breach, the headteacher of a school will be the one held accountable for the breach.
Teachers and department heads
Although teachers and department heads are not solely responsible for putting data policies in place, every single member of staff in a school has a duty of care toward protecting pupils’ data.
Teachers are not at liberty to disclose information about a pupil to a third party, either verbally or in writing. Doing so can result in disciplinary action and, in some instances, legal action. In 2018, an education worker in the UK was fined £850 by the ICO after being found guilty of sharing pupil’s data via the social media platform Snapchat.
Within any school, college, university, or other educational organization, all members of staff should be trained in data security. This will help employees to understand the importance of protecting data and the possible consequences of any breaches of data privacy. This training can help explain how a data breach could affect the school and themselves in terms of legal action or compensation claims.
In the age of GDPR, responsibility toward data has never been more important – and even more so when it comes to protecting children. By creating a greater understanding of data privacy, head teachers can ensure that all employees are invested in making sure that children and staff are kept safe. Since 2016, GDPR laws have worked toward ensuring that all data held by an individual or business is collected, stored, and shared in accordance with European law.
Privacy and Protection
While the ultimate responsibility for data security may come down to one or two members of staff, every school employee has a duty toward pupil and staff safety – including the protection of data. Parents and guardians have the right to request access to the data that a school holds regarding their child. This includes academic records, disciplinary records, achievements, and communications. Moreover, ensuring that best practices for data protection are followed at all times is vital for a school or educational facility.
In the event that you feel that a school or other educational organization may have breached your child’s data, you should ask to see records of all personal data that the school held for you or your child. Your next step is to secure the services of a data breach solicitor who will be able to advise you on any further action.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a data breach lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on educational data breaches. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.
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