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Friday, 2 December 2011

Data Protection? Child Protection?

Please find below a real email conversation between a Parent and a Head Teacher. It begs the question; Where will it all end?

Please note, any personal data has been removed (irony discuss). We welcome your views.

> Good morning,
> I've just phoned asking if my children could have a class list each as they are planning a little party, also they will soon be writing Christmas cards. I was told that it couldn't be done due to data protection. What data? We know all this information anyway. We just don't want to miss anybody out. Obviously [child in reception] in particular is likely to forget quite a few.
> Please tell me this is a mistake. We ask every year and have never been refused before. As I said, there is no data required, just a list of names.
> Thank you
> Mr YYY

> Good morning Mr YYY,
> I am sorry however we will not be giving out class lists. We do not publish class lists in line with school policy which has been reviewed. Some parents do not want their child's information passed on and we also cannot guarantee how information will be used or disposed of.
> I am sure you will understand that we have to take every step to ensure the safety of our children and that information is held and used in line with data protection.
> Kind regards
> Mrs Xxx
Dear Mrs Xxx,
I'm sorry, I'm honestly not trying to be difficult, I just don't understand.

I understand that child protection and data protection issues are crucially important. I also understand that people do not like their private details being passed on, although I find it difficult to believe that parents do not want their children's names to be known. What I don't understand is that this is information we already have. All the children know each other's names. Indeed, as a parent of three children at Unnamed School, I know a large amount of children's names. In addition to this, a teacher will, as part of their twice daily routine and legal requirements take a register using the children's names. If we work hard enough on this at home we can compile a Christmas card list and party invitation list from our collective memories.

I'm not asking you to change your mind, we can manage party invitations and Christmas cards by ourselves. However, I would like to make it clear that we do not require any sensitive information, or indeed any information that isn't given out by teachers twice a day to the other children. In fact, we didn't even need surnames.

This is a ludicrously over protective policy which serves only to further the division between school and families and create a lack of community ethos. I have been into assemblies in your school and heard you refer to yourselves as a family. This policy is neither family or community friendly. One has to ask where will this end, should we remove names from coat pegs, perhaps we should blur out the faces on class photos and school website images, perhaps we could give the children numbers instead of names. I note with interest that the school newsletter now only uses first names and initial surname letter (unless of course it is the y4 boys). Perhaps, in line with what appears to be your school policy you could supply a list of names in this format so that children are not overlooked. Incidentally, the school newsletter lacks identity and has no feeling of personality.

My request was intended to save us a little time, ironically it has achieved the exact opposite. More importantly however, it was intended to ensure that we included all the children in our children's classes.

Wishing you very best wishes