Whilst visiting a school I came across an interesting point of law relating to the Data Protection Act 1998 and the rights of parents to see information held on a pupil’s file. A parent had requested a copy of their own child’s GCSE results. The Act requires written consent from the pupil to release the results to the parent. The right to make a subject access request is the pupil’s right. The rights of parents only entitle them to access information held on the pupils file by making a subject access request. Access can only be granted once the pupil has given written consent. I found this to be a very interesting point of law and exceptions obviously apply to this rule. For example where a pupil is unable to act on their own behalf the above consent is not required.
The rights of parents and pupils
There are two distinct rights to information held about pupils in schools. They are:
- the pupil’s right of subject access under the Data Protection Act 1998; and
- the rights of parents to access to their child’s ‘educational record’
The statutory definition of a pupils ‘educational record’ broadly includes information that is processed by or on behalf of a school. This definition is rather broad. Generally speaking information kept by a teacher solely for their own use does not form part of the educational record. Certain other information will also fall outside the educational record. For example information about the pupil provided by the parent of another pupil does not form part of the educational record.
Subject access request
As a school when you receive a subject access request, in order to decide what information to provide it is sensible to bear in mind the general exemptions that could apply. It may be appropriate for a school to withhold information where:
- there is a risk of serious harm to the physical or mental health of the pupil or another individual;
- the information would reveal that the pupil is at risk of abuse;
- details on adoption and parental order records are held; and
- the information was given in court proceedings concerning the pupil.
If a subject access request is made for a pupil’s educational record a response must be provided by the school within 15 days. Or the normal 40 days if the information does not relate to the educational record.
An interesting final point is that schools may have circumstances where a subject access request is made for information about examinations. Exemptions apply here and a subject access request cannot be made for examination scripts and markers comments.
For further information on the rights of parents or subject access request, please cotnact our Education team on 0161 475 7676.