Just like in many businesses, efficient recordkeeping in schools is essential. Accurate and updated information of the child is required to identify patterns of concern and to monitor their achievements and progress.
As with many companies, schools should have a solid and secure records management policy that meets the provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA). Doing so protects the child and ensures the information is shared appropriately, where necessary, and with consent.
Knowing Which Records to Keep
The Department for Education requires that schools keep the academic and non-academic information of each pupil. Some documents contain the pupil's personal information, such as name, address, contact details, health and dietary requirements. The majority of the information collected includes the pupil's academic status, such as disciplinary records, attendance, marks and progress reports.
Retention of information varies heavily on the category of the records. Attendance registers are kept from the date of register plus three years. Public examination results must be retained from the year of the exam plus six years.
Access of School Records
To comply with the DPA's provisions, all information that identifies pupils, parents and school staff must be gathered and stored securely. Schools are also legally responsible to protect the information from outsiders.
While data must be kept confidential, schools also require an open-access policy. Under the 2005 Education (Pupil Information) Regulations, parents of pupils have the right to retrieve the records of their children upon request.
There are instances, however, that a school needs to withhold information. This occurs when the sharing of information could harm the pupil or adult, or when a person has not consented to provide access to information.
Storage of School Records
Schools are required to keep paper documents of each student in one file. They must be stored in lockable storage cabinets then stored in a room with restricted access. Electronic records should also have appropriate security and must be accessed only by concerned staff.
Management of Data
School data management emphasises the importance of two roles: the data controller and the data processor. The former determines the processes of processing data, while the latter manages the data on behalf of the controller. In the school setting, the institution serves as the controller, while the processor can be a records management company or an internal department.
Like all public authorities, schools have to designate a data protection officer to monitor the school's policies and conduct audits. They're also responsible for training staff, students and parents on proper data protection.
Disposal of Records
The school should dispose of school records according to the safe disposal of records guidelines. For thorough disposal, it's highly recommended to hire the services of records management companies. They provide the safe shredding of paper documents and destruction of media devices.
For schools, updated information helps them identify causes of concern for students. It also helps monitor the progress of the child so that proper intervention measures are taken right away. A robust and effective data management policy helps the school function efficiently and assist students in their learning.