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

Thank you for standing up and doing something constructive about this rather then simply complaining, being fobbed off and then going away to quietly fume!
I am very glad that when faced with the fact they where contravening data protection law the head teacher came to her sences!

I can't explain how upset I would be if either of my children's data was shared in this way, especially my ds who has SN. There is enough to deal with without school yard gossip!
Luckily our school takes data protection very seriously, when I had a meeting recently about ds with his class teacher she had her list with each child's name and their EYFS profile scores however she had taped sheets of paper both above and below ds name so all I could see was the data about ds. For parents eve the teachers all make indeevidual notes for each child with their levels, targets and progress and the only one you will ever lay eyes on is the one about your child.
Yes as children get older they know their targets and levels and talk amongst themselves but to be honest I know at least with my own dd that she would never think to share that with me unless I asked her to, not something I have ever or would ever ask!
I do know who are the highest achieving children and the ones who find things a little harder in dd's class just by knowing the children well but only in the most general of term (x reads well, y writes beautifully, dd mentioned she was working with z in her extra support group), that level of knowledge IMO is to be expected and normal, there is really no way to not have that kind of knowledge in my expirance but knowing indeevidual levels etc is many steps beyond acceptable!

Thanks for acting op!

baffledgov Mon 08-Jul-13 21:52:52

Thought I would update this thread to report a happy ending. Another governor came to my rescue and found a very useful document on the use of personal data, related to the 1998 Data Protection Act. It seemed clear according to the criteria of this document that the school didn't have a good rationale for displaying the data to other parents the way they did. The HT, once she had had more time to reflect on the matter, agreed that it would be better to anonymise the data.

So my faith in the school's GB is restored, and I feel rather proud of having made a bit of a difference. Thanks to everyone for their help!

HumphreyCobbler Sun 26-May-13 20:42:48

This is very poor practice. Well done for fighting it OP.

LatteLady Sun 26-May-13 20:37:47

Baffled, as you suspect your school is skating on very thin ice. I can only imagine the response you would get to this on the UK Governors website.

No names should be involved, but letters or symbols might be used. You need to flag this at your next GB meeting along with your note to the HT to ensure that you have an audit trail.

I suggest you call Governorline who are really helpful.

Timetoask Sun 26-May-13 10:14:11

I agree with you OP. I am sure it would be deeply upsetting for the children at the bottom of the list. If the headteacher thinks nobody will look at the names then they are deluding themselves.

I am sure it will not be a huge effort to change the chart.

I would do it this way: Plot the chart NUMBERS instead of names. On a separate spreadsheet have one column with the number and one column with the name. The teacher can then see the spreadsheet to know which number has been assigned to a particular child and discuss the chart with the parent (without disclosing the spreadsheet).

tiredaftertwo Sun 26-May-13 10:02:16

OP, the ICO website has lots of useful info on this. I think you are right - you need to point out what the law says. The school has a duty to keep children's info "secure" and from a quick look, even if a specific request was made for info about an individual and fulfilling it might even merely identify another, the organisation has to consider the situation very carefully indeed. I haven't put specific links in because it varies across the four countries I think, but well worth having a google or even contacting them and asking, perhaps. Whether or not parents in bulk object is in a sense irrelevant - is it legal? is it good professional practice? and could even just one child be harmed by this practice? Hope that helps - good for you for pursuing this.

(and I agree that the it would take too much time is nonsense - computer reports are generated in the way you set them up to be. It might take a bit of time to get someone to rewrite the parameters for the report, but that would be it - it is not as if staff will be going through colouring in squares and triangles!)

rainbowsocks Fri 24-May-13 17:50:31

This is an awful idea. I can just imagine competitive parents bragging/gossiping about where their child is on the list.
I once worked in an office where our monthly quality and efficiency figures were displayed on the wall. Every member of staff was recorded as a letter of the alphabet (not connected to their names) so when you looked at the chart to see where you were you had no idea who was above or below you. It's really not difficult with a little bit of thought.
I am not surprised that some school fail to grasp data protection issues as I have had similar experiences unfortunately sad.

choccyp1g Fri 24-May-13 15:25:00

You are absolutely right OP, it is totally out of order.

In my school's governors meetings and papers, teachers are very careful to anonymise all the data.

Levantine Fri 24-May-13 14:24:38

I would be really furious if my school did this. Stand your ground OP!

Blueskiesandbuttercups Fri 24-May-13 14:20:45

Surely they're on dodgy ground re data protection.confused

musicalfamily Fri 24-May-13 14:12:21

I agree with all the comments about making it anonymous - surely it isn't that much effort coding it.

I also agree with the parent helper comment. Sadly since our school has allowed parents to "help" in reception, I have heard comments which are totally inappropriate about levels of children and also behaviour of certain children. Although the school makes parents sign a confidentiality agreement, this doesn't stop parents exercising their indiscretion, unfortunately.

I find it a terrible system, mainly because children so young are already classified and catalogued and publically assessed, whilst really it should be all about the joy of learning.

Even in competitive sports they don't have to go through that until they're at least 7 and even then it is a choice.

Shame on educational establishments for thinking this is a positive step for children.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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 10:01:43

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 10:01:28

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

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?

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.

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.

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?

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

Wow I amazed they're doing thatshock

I'd not be at all happy.

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!

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

Yes- I should think this contravenes data sharing protocols.

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