Legislation and Policies Governing Confidentiality and the Sharing of Information:
Data Protection Act 1998
Any organisation that holds information on individuals needs to be registered with the Information Commissioner. This is designed to ensure that confidential information cannot be passed onto others without the individual’s consent, or the parents or guardians consent with regard to children. Individuals also have the right to access personal data held on file about themselves, or in the case of children, the parent or guardian could exercise this right.
There are eight principles of practice that govern the use of personal information. Information must be:
* processed fairly and lawfully
* used only for the purpose for which it was gathered
* adequate, relevant and not excessive
* accurate and kept up to date where necessary
* kept for no longer than necessary
* processed in line with the individual’s rights
* kept secure
* not transferred outside the European Union without adequate protection.
Every Child Matters (England 2003) and the subsequent Children Act 2004
This Green Paper was delivered after the tragic case of Victoria Climbié, where it was revealed there was no communication between health and social workers. The Paper stresses the importance of more integrated services and sharing information between professionals. The Children Act 2004 is the Act of Parliament that transposed the Green Paper into law.
Freedom of Information Act 2000
The purpose of this Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the public sector. Any person may request information, in writing, held by a school. Schools have a duty to provide advice and assistance to anyone requesting information; however, schools have an over-riding duty to protect confidential personal information relating to pupils and staff.
Types of Information held by Schools:
There are three main types of information that a school may keep on record, with regard to its staff and pupils. These are personal data, sensitive personal data and other information. Below are examples of these, although the lists are not exhaustive.
* Date of Birth
* In Case of Emergency information, including contact names, addresses and telephone numbers * GP’s name, address and telephone number
* Special dietary requirements
* Allergy information
Sensitive Personal Data:
* Ethnic group
* Sexual orientation
* Political views
* Criminal background
* Member of a Trade Union
* Medical history
* Special education needs
* Anti-social incidents
* Child protection (if applicable)
* Exam and/or assessment results
Why do schools hold this information?
* To support the child’s teaching and learning
* To monitor and report on progress
* To ensure that children get all the help and support they need at school.
The Importance of Reassuring Confidentiality:
Schools are placed in a position of trust, and as such, should have a clear and explicit confidentiality policy.
All parents and guardians should be made aware of the school’s confidentiality policy and be assured that there is an agreed system within the school regarding the sharing of information about a child and that permission will be sort, should there be a need to breach the system in place. There may be cases where information on pupils needs to be accessible to all staff, for example; specific medical conditions such as asthma or epilepsy.
It is also important to reassure children and young people that they are able to talk to an adult in confidence, except where there are issues concerning a child at risk from harm or abuse.
When Confidentiality Protocols Must Be Broken:
If there are any reasons that indicate a child or young person is at risk from harm or abuse, either...
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