With speculation in the air about how the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will affect schools, leadership teams may be asking themselves if they will be ready for the legislation when it comes into force in May 2018.
So now seems a good time to talk about the new ways that SIMS can help you meet some of the GDPR requirements.
Ready to respond
Take subject access requests (SARs) for instance – one of the areas being tightened up under GDPR. As the ICO website explains, your pupils and their parents have the right to make a SAR to see the personal information you hold about them, and you will have to provide this data, free of charge.
You may feel that receiving a SAR is likely to be a rare occurrence in your school, but when you think about how many schools run incentive programmes, you can start to see that there may be many more requests than at first thought.
Take the example of a Year 11 student who is not allowed to attend the school prom due to poor conduct, or a primary school pupil who misses out on a trip organised for children with 100% attendance. These are just the sort of situations where a parent might request to see all the data stored on their child’s behaviour or attendance.
Easing the burden on schools
It would be far easier for schools if they could access all their pupil data from one place – and that is the thinking behind the latest developments in Capita SIMS. To compile the data you need to respond to a SAR may currently involve running multiple reports in your system.
To make this task easier, we’re including a solution in the autumn release that will enable you to export significant amounts of data to a Word document, which will take a fraction of the time.
So if you receive a SAR, you will be able to quickly pull together the data you need to respond.
Present and correct
But how can you be sure that the data you hold on your pupils is accurate – which is another significant requirement of GDPR?
Family situations change throughout the year, as parents move house, switch jobs or form new relationships. Traditionally, schools send out a paper-based data collection sheet at the beginning of the academic year, but the details it contains may be inaccurate by the time the office staff key it into the system.
And when entering data from handwritten forms, even the most diligent administrator can fall foul of spelling errors and typos.
To help schools ensure they have up-to-date information in their systems, the SIMS Parent app allows parents to log on and see their existing core data and make change requests as and when they need to, greatly reducing the chance of a school holding an old mobile number, or the email address from a parent’s previous job.
A busy parent may not always remember to update their details, but schools will be able to send out regular reminders to parents via the app, and they can also ask for parents’ consent to use the data for specific activities, as required by GDPR.
Help is at hand
Although any new legislative burden is an additional worry for schools, I would say that most schools which already address the current Data Protection Act have little to worry about with GDPR. But for any schools looking for advice, one of the best places to start is with a visit to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) website. There are other forms of help too, for instance your local authority, school association or academy trust.
With better parental engagement, improved communication and a simpler mechanism for pulling together data, schools will have the building blocks for good data practice in time for GDPR next spring.
Find out more about the enhanced data reporting functions and the SIMS Parent app.