Data protection and freedom of information (FOI) for schools

Guidance and templates

Guidance for members of the public who need to:

  • understand where to direct their concerns around any data protection incidents
  • find out who deals with FOI requests about school information
  • find out how to request access to information/records about a child, held by a school
Data protection for schools

The Data Protection Act (1998) is a law designed to protect the privacy of individuals. In particular with regards to the processing of their personal information. The Act covers manual (paper) records as well as those held on computer.

Under the Data Protection Act, schools are their own data controllers. They are responsible for registering with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). They also need to comply with the eight principles of the Act around using, storing and protecting data.

Legal services for schools

Schools signed up to Legal Services' service level agreement (SLA) can access legal advice about data protection issues. A pay-as-you-go service is available at an hourly rate if the school requires legal advice or help not covered by the SLA.

For more information please contact Legal Services

Email [email protected]

Access to pupil records and subject access requests (SARs)

Pupils and students have the right to see their personal information. They can make a SAR to see the personal information schools hold about them.

Pupils or their parents have the right to see their educational records. If they wish to see this information they should make their request directly to the school that holds that information.

Schools are responsible for dealing with these requests. They must comply with their obligations under the Act.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has guidance for schools

Further information about requesting access to information held on you or your children by the County Council

Freedom of information (FOI)

An FOI is the provision of information not covered by the Data Protection Act. The two have close links.

If the school or educational establishment is a public authority, the FOI Act means they must produce a publication scheme.

This scheme will outline the information they make available to the public, eg. tables of data, annual reports or financial information.

The ICO has produced a range of documents to explain the detail of what schools need to publish.

Anyone wishing to access information which is not about a person (this is a SAR) would use the FOI process and should make their request directly to the school that holds that information.

The County Council does not deal with requests for information held by schools.