I am regularly asked about the legal right of a parent to see their child’s full educational record, with too many schools attempting to block release of information that could prove embarrassing, lead to a complaint about the school or ease admission to another school.
If the child attends a maintained school, parents have an independent right of access to their child’s educational record.
However, there is no equivalent legal right to access your child’s educational record for an academy or free school, or indeed a private school and it is likely to depend on the contractual relationship between the parent and the school.
Personally and professionally I find this wholly morally unacceptable, but sadly government has acted to strip parents of what in any civilised society would surely be regarded as a human right, as acknowledged by the different rules for maintained schools.
There is, however, a get out in that the child themselves attending any type of school have a right of access under the Data Protection Act 1998 to their own information. This is known as the right of subject access. When a child cannot act for themselves or the child gives permission, parents will be able to access this information on their behalf. See below for more details.
If, however, you have a concern about a school's information rights practices then raise it with the Information Commissioners Office.
You will find the full detail here, or else read on...
The full school educational record is defined as follows: “This covers information that comes from a teacher or other employee of a local authority or school, the pupil or you as a parent, and is processed by or for the school’s governing body or teacher, except for information the teacher has solely for their own use. So it will cover information such as the records of the pupil’s academic achievements as well as correspondence from teachers, local education authority employees and educational psychologists engaged by the school’s governing body. It may also include information from the child and from you, as a parent. Information provided by the parent of another child would not form part of a child’s educational record”.
For academies and free schools: “It will be up to the school to decide whether to grant such access, and it is likely to depend on the contractual relationship between the parent and the school”. In other words, when your child entered the school you will have signed a legal agreement over which you have no say, that gives away the rights that you would have had in a maintained school. This totally alters the relationship between family and school if there are difficulties, placing the school in complete control of the information, critical if for example a parent wishes to change school or make a complaint.
However, the Information Commissioners Office states: "Pupils attending any type of school have a right of access under the Data Protection Act 1998 to their own information. This is known as the right of subject access. When a child cannot act for themselves or the child gives permission, parents will be able to access this information on their behalf". As noted below, if a child is under the age of 12, then it is assumed they cannot act for themselves. In such cases, when you are applying for information, make it clear that you are acting on your child's behalf, and quote the Act and ICO. Of course that does not stop the school behaving without regard to the Act, in which case contact the ICO for advice.
According to the ICO, the child, or parents acting on behalf of the child is entitled to copies of any records, notes, emails, correspondence, etc. containing the child's name.
If there is a problem, the ICO recommends you make a further request using a Subject Access Request under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act asking on your child's 's behalf for there ENTIRE school records. They then have 40 calendar days to respond. If nothing is received, send a chaser letter/email which gives them a further 14 days. If still nothing, to then contact ICO and raise a complaint.
Other Information from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
As a parent, how can I access my child’s educational record?
This will depend on the location of the school. In England you should make the request in writing to the Board of Governors.
How long should this take?
A request for an educational record must receive a response within 15 school days.
How much will it cost?
The school can charge what it costs to supply a copy of the information. It is free for a parent to view the educational record. See also ‘As a pupil, how much will it cost?’ below.
As a parent, when can I request other information about my child?
You will be able to access all the information about your child if your child is unable to act on their own behalf or gives their permission. As a general guide, a child of 12 or older is expected to be mature enough to make this kind of request.
As a parent, are there circumstances where I could be denied access to my child’s educational record?
There are certain circumstances where the school can withhold an educational record; for example, where the information might cause serious harm to the physical or mental health of the pupil or another individual.
The request for access would also be denied if it would mean releasing examination marks before they are officially announced.
If you wish to see your own examination results, the link is here.
As a pupil, what rights do I have to access my information?
You (or someone acting on your behalf) have the right to a copy of your own information. This is known as the right of subject access. However, schools may withhold information in certain circumstances, such as where serious harm may be caused to your physical or mental health or another individual, or where the request is for an exam script or for exam marks before they are officially announced.
As a pupil, how should I request information and how long will it take?
You should make your request in writing to the school. In England and Wales, if the request is only for information outside the educational record then the school is required to respond within 40 calendar days. However, if any of the information requested is in the educational record, then the school should respond in 15 school days.
As a pupil, how much will it cost?
For your educational record, it depends on the number of pages provided. For example, 1 to 19 pages will cost £1.20; 29 pages will cost £2, and so on, up to a maximum of 500+ pages which will cost £50. If the request is for other information excluding the educational record then the maximum charge is £10.
What if the information you want involves information about another person?
Information about another person may not always be available to you. Unless the other person gives their permission, or it is reasonable in the circumstances to provide the information without permission, the school will be entitled to withhold this information.