Data protection for schools

According to recent headlines, UK schools are ‘risking children’s security with inconsistent data protection’. A study by academics at East Anglia and Plymouth universities found that schoolchildren’s addresses, routes to school and even fingerprints are at risk of exploitation because nearly half of the 1,059 schools surveyed have no policy for handling personal data.

Inadequate security systems also mean that confidential information held by schools, such as whether children have relatives who are on the sex offenders’ register, whether they have special needs and whether they are known to social services, could be accessed by strangers.

The study’s findings, which were presented at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Manchester, also highlight that, although an estimated 40 per cent of the UK’s secondary schools, and 10 per cent of its primary schools use biometric systems (including fingerprint, iris or palm recognition software), to allow pupils to take out library books or pay for school dinners, of the schools surveyed:

  • 48 per cent had either no data protection policy or claimed to be in the process of formulating one
  • 45 per cent did not meet the minimum level of password security
  • 40 per cent had insufficient measures in place to provide even the minimum level of security for their computer systems against problems such as computer viruses…

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