Parent/teacher meetings and confidentiality

(61 Posts)
baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:22:10

I have NC'ed for this to avoid outing myself. My DC's state primary school (with which I'm very happy) has adopted a new policy of showing parents a graph chart of their child's progress at parent/teacher meetings. The chart is useful and clear and shows whether the child is meeting the expected progress levels in math, literacy, etc. It also shows where my DC stands in relation to the other children in the class.

So far, so good, but what makes me uncomfortable is that each chart also shows the names and progress levels of all the other children in the class. So as the teacher sits next to me and points to my DC's name, I can also easily see that little Freddie (an invented name!) is at the top of the class in terms of achievement, little Amaan is at the bottom, etc, etc.

Doesn't this breach confidentiality rules? I suspect that it does. I don't object to Amaan's parents knowing that he is at the bottom, but if I were Amaan's mum, I would be bloody annoyed knowing that every other parent in the class also knew that Amaan was at the bottom. So since I'm a governor at the school, I mentioned the issue at a governors' meeting. My concern was very quickly dismissed by the headteacher, staff and most of the other governors. I was told that the charts are wonderful, that all the the parents knowing where all the other children in the class stand academically wasn't a problem, and that parents should look at the name of their DC only and ignore the other names on the list. I think this is rubbish as all the names are on the same page and it is impossible not to see at least SOME of the other names and where they rank on the list. I was told that logistically it would be too time-consuming to create anonymous charts to show each parent (that is, charts that identified only their own DC by name).

So are they right? Should I stop worrying about this? I'm not concerned about my own DC's data being shared with other parents. It's just the principle of the thing that seems wrong to me.

Even my DH thinks I'm wrong about this. He has a competitive streak and declares (only half-jokingly) that he loves seeing how our own DS is outstripping some of the other children. hmm

Slambang Thu 23-May-13 22:53:05

Wow. I'm an ex primay teacher and pretty shocked that this is thought to be Ok by a school. I totally agree with you and would say you have to use your position as governor here to wield a strong arm and get this sorted. Put your foot down - you're the boss!

I do think that knowing where your dc is compared to others can be helpful though. As a teacher we all like to put things in positives ("Yes, Amina's made great progressand she now needs to work on putting more punctuation into her analysis of Chekov." Next please! "Yes, Freddie's doing great and he now knows 3 more letter sounds.")

Although parents need the info on how to help their dcs progress they can often have no idea that their dc is actually struggling compared to others. I had several parents complaining that nobody had ever told them before that their dc was struggling because they hadn't decoded the positive messages in reports and parents meetings. A clear numbered graph would be really helpful.

MrsShrek3 Thu 23-May-13 22:58:16

we use these charts and assessment software -possibly a different version because when I want a whole cohort print out I can choose to have it with symbol rather than name. each child gets a coloured shape not name and no two are the same. the parent is only told which is their child - the red triangle shows freddies position...although on the whole nobody shows them to parents anyway unless theres a very particular need. Far better to discuss a single child's progress and targets.

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:59:31

Yes, slambang, that was the point that the teaching staff were making at the governors' meeting - that some parents had thought their dc were doing fine, based on the positive feedback received from teachers, and didn't realise that their dc needed to improve until they saw the class rankings.

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 23:02:51

BTW, does anyone know whether the school could actually get into trouble (eg legal trouble) for not changing this practice? It would make my case stronger if I could argue that the potential negative repercussions extended further than just upset parents.

Thanks for all the comments; I feel much encouraged!

Our school shows us individual graphs of our DC's levels compared to the national average. I can't see any reason to show even a class average. Some classes and schools will have more higher ability children than others, so comparing against 29 others is pointless.

In my DS3's class there happen to be a large group of very good mathematicians which means those DC who are average to above average in maths would look like they were struggling.

Yellowtip Thu 23-May-13 23:08:27

That's exactly what I meant when I said the info was random EllenJane.

Yes I think the school could lay itself open to legal challenge baffledgov.

piprabbit Thu 23-May-13 23:08:46

I'm not an expert but I wonder if the children's data is covered by the Data Protection Act? It's being held electronically and then downloaded and printed and there is a duty to ensure that personal data is only accessed by staff for the purposes of their job and personal data should be encrypted etc.
Printing out a set of children's data and showing it to people who have no need to know anything other than their own child's data, sounds like they are pushing their luck.

ProphetOfDoom Thu 23-May-13 23:16:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Gosh, whatever happened to confidentiality? I suggest you say you 'have taken advice from MN' or have 'surveyed a large number of parents on MN' and the consensus is that it's a breach of confidentiality to disclose individual DC's academic achievement to the public without their parents' express permission.

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 23:34:09

Thanks again everyone! I have just sent out an email to the HT and my fellow governors, reiterating my concerns and proposing evertonmint's solution. Incidentally, I'm the governor who is meant to take a special responsibility for SEN issues, so I pointed out that there could be negative repercussions in particular for SEN children and their parents. I'll let you know how everyone responds.

If any of the other governors at my primary read MN, they will know who I am immediately, but never mind. grin

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 23:39:20

And yes, Schmaltzing, our school has recently come out of special measures and is quite Ofsted-obsessed. And clearly there is much love for the shiny new charts.

JoyMachine Thu 23-May-13 23:48:14

Yes- I should think this contravenes data sharing protocols.

wheresthebeach Fri 24-May-13 09:25:20

I'm shocked...and would go nuts if this happened at our school. Surprised parents haven't kicked off.
We have enough playground issues without that sort of info being added to the mix!

ChewingOnLifesGristle Fri 24-May-13 09:29:03

Wow I amazed they're doing thatshock

I'd not be at all happy.

badguider Fri 24-May-13 09:29:43

To me it's just totally blinking obvious to number the lines on the graph 1-30 and have a private list for the teacher of which child is which number.

I don't even understand why you wouldn't do this, if just to keep the clutter of names off the graph and keep it cleaner to read?

SwishSwoshSwoosh Fri 24-May-13 09:45:04

Another one saying I am shocked, I hope they rethink. Well done for not being fobbed off.

Rolf Fri 24-May-13 09:58:42

I agree with you, OP. At my children's school, where I am a governor, even for governors' meetings the HT redacts the charts to make them anonymous. It takes them ages but everyone agrees that it is essential.

The charts are very useful - you can see exactly where each child in the class is in terms of attainment and progress and it helps the staff to plan targeted interventions. Each child has a number and the numbers are on the charts. The "key" which identifies each child by number is removed for the charts shown to the governors. The staff-governors have a set of charts that have the chiildren's names included.

As a parent I'd be very upset if other parents or governors were shown these charts with the names included.

baffledgov Fri 24-May-13 10:00:26

OK, it's early in the day yet, but so far there has been a deafening silence in response to my email. I will wait till the end of the day to see if anyone responds, and if not, I'll email the head of governors and tell her I want the issue to be added to the agenda of the next full GB meeting. (The meeting I brought it up at yesterday was just a subcommittee, although the HT and chair and vice-chair of govs and various members of teaching staff were all present.) Then I suppose I will write a short paper or something reiterating my concerns, and have it added to the body of documents that are circulated before the meeting.

I am quite cross about the way they're treating my concern as petty. Someone implied that if I have seen the names of other DC and their class rankings, then that is my fault for "snooping". Honestly! I don't know why the HT doesn't want to fix the problem now instead of waiting until some parent gossips and some other parent gets mortally offended.

Ironically, all the data that governors see in meetings is anonymised (so we will hear that there has been a bullying incident, or that X group of children needs extra support, but we never hear the actual names of the children involved). So why is it all right for parents to see all of these names?

baffledgov Fri 24-May-13 10:01:28

Oh right, I've just seen your message, Rolf! Our school does that for governors' meetings too, just not for parent/teacher meetings. hmm

tiggytape Fri 24-May-13 10:01:43

We have this with NC levels too. They are in a table not on a graph and the teacher places a sheet of A4 just below your child's name on the list to highlight the row you should be looking at.

But of course, if your surname is later in the alphabet that means you can easily see all the names and grades of the children above your child on the list. Not that most people do TBH as the teacher is pointing and talking to you about your child's grades. You'd have to be very quick nosy to see all the others but if you really wanted to, you could

There again my DCs are both old enough now that they know their own levels and all the children compare notes anyway so I pretty much already know what levels their friends are on.

badguider A numbering system to make it anonymous sounds like a very good idea though

baffledgov Fri 24-May-13 10:05:53

Point taken, tiggytape, but I think there's an important difference between the children sharing info with one another and the school inadvertently sharing info around.

tiggytape Fri 24-May-13 10:20:21

No - I agree. I think it would be much better if the graph was coded so anonymous. It would be so easy to do that it seems silly not to in fact.

The reason I wouldn't say anything in my own case is that the school used to be awful for giving any information at all. They wouldn't even tell you about your own child let alone where they ranked in terms of expected levels. I am nervous of making any complaint that would suddenly result in them being all weirdly secretive again and saying ‘your child is doing fine and that's all you need to know’ which is pretty much what we got for years.

It is important to know how your child is progressing but also where they stand in relation to the class or national average. A lot of parents whose children were struggling genuinely had no idea under the old system – they got positive reports saying Dan could confidently give change from 20p and as knew his 2 and 10 times tables. This sounded great - they had no idea that this meant he was miles behind his class and the expected standard for his age. If a child is progressing more slowly than others from a starting point that is miles behind, it actually means they are going backwards – well getting left further and further behind the rest and a parent needs to know that. Sometimes progression in itself doesn’t mean all is fine.

squeelybean Fri 24-May-13 10:21:39

We dont have a need for charts to disclose levels at our Primary school. They allow parent helpers to know reading and writing levels which can then be discussed freely on the playground.

Its always nice to be congratulated by Queen Bee parent helper because my DS has just been given his first word bookhmm

I wish you were a Governor at our school to kick some arse!

wheresthebeach Fri 24-May-13 10:42:45

Our school does the 'everythings fine' too. Any questions are treated with suspicion and I've found I need to put requests in writing, repeatedly to get anywhere. Even when there were concerns over DD's spelling the response to 'what is her spelling age?' was...'we don't like to quote those figures'. confused

Would be so helpful to get more info...so helpful if comments on homework encouraged the development rather than just saying 'lovely work', or a stamp with a smily face....

Still...I wouldn't want it shared with with the whole class! Good for you for not backing down.

Blueskiesandbuttercups Fri 24-May-13 14:02:48

Wheres I could have written your post.

Why oh why can't all schools have exactly the same system,charts and reports for reporting to parents?

It's so unfair that some parents have to fight for info and others get given it freely.

We have had to insist on seeing work properly at parents evenings!

Having said that I totally agree with the op,I'd be livid in this instance.Not impossible to rectify though.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now