Protecting Student Privacy: The Importance of School Data Protection

Protecting Student Privacy: The Importance of School Data Protection

In today’s digital age, schools handle a vast amount of sensitive information about students, parents, and staff. This data drives everything from admissions to student support services, including academic records and personal details. However, with significant data comes great responsibility. Ensuring its security and privacy is paramount; each of us plays a crucial role in this process.


Data Protection in Schools

Every click, swipe, and keystroke generates data. From online learning platforms to social media interactions, schools are flooded with information. For example, every minute, internet users publish a staggering 450,000 tweets. Emails for school communications and online assignment submissions add to this data flood, highlighting the need for robust data security measures.

Personal data is stored in various ways: manually, on individual devices, within school digital systems, and in the cloud. This creates significant potential for data breaches or misuse. More data is generated and stored when students submit assignments online, requiring stringent data security protocols.


Meeting Legal Requirements for School Data Protection

In the United Kingdom, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets the standard for data protection. This comprehensive legal framework provides us with clear guidelines and expectations. Key principles schools must adhere to include Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency. The aim is to ensure data is used transparently and as expected. The Limitation Principle mandates that personal data is collected for specific, legitimate purposes only, giving us a solid foundation for our data protection efforts.

The Data Minimisation Principle stresses that personal data should be adequate, relevant, and limited to necessary information. Accuracy and Updates ensure that student and staff data remain accurate and up to date. Additionally, it emphasises the need for strong security measures to protect against unauthorised access and data breaches. The Storage Limitation Principle dictates that data should be kept only as long as necessary and securely deleted when no longer needed.


Actionable Insights for School Data Protection

Schools must adopt a proactive approach to data protection to ensure compliance and safeguard sensitive information. Here are five key actionable insights:

1. Conduct Regular Data Audits and Implement Strong Access Controls: Regularly assess collected data, storage, access, and usage to identify vulnerabilities and ensure data minimisation. Use role-based access controls (RBAC) to restrict sensitive information access to authorised personnel only and review permissions regularly.


2. Encrypt Sensitive Data and Use Secure Communication Channels: Employ encryption for data at rest and in transit to protect against unauthorised access. Please make sure all sensitive information is communicated through secure, encrypted channels, avoiding personal email accounts for school-related communications.


3. Train Staff and Students on Data Protection and Cyber Hygiene: Conduct training sessions on data protection policies, cyber hygiene, and the importance of safeguarding personal information, including phishing awareness and safe internet practices.


4. Update Systems Regularly and Develop a Data Breach Response Plan: Keep software and systems updated to protect against the latest security vulnerabilities, implementing automatic updates where possible. Create a comprehensive incident response plan for data breaches, ensuring all staff are familiar with the procedures and conduct regular drills.


5.Engage with a Data Protection Officer (DPO): Appoint or consult a DPO to oversee data protection strategies, ensure GDPR compliance, conduct Data Protection Impact Assessments, manage data breach responses, and serve as a point of contact for data protection queries. The DPO also plays a crucial role in developing policies, providing training, and liaising with regulatory authorities.


TenIntelligence Thoughts

Educational institutions manage extensive volumes of sensitive data. Ensuring data security and privacy is a shared responsibility. Thus, it is imperative to maintain trust and adhere to privacy standards. Contact us for our expert guidance from our DPO to adhere to GDPR compliance, protect personal data and your institution’s sensitive information.


Written by 

Lynsey Hanson, Data Protection Officer

Lynsey Hanson