Nov 26
gdpr for schools and educational institutions

GDPR in Schools: A Look at Challenges and Opportunities (1/2)

At DPOrganizer, we work with many schools and educational institutions. It has become clear how important it is for schools to step up their compliance game.

For that reason, this is the first in a two-past blog post series on GDPR for schools.

Why GDPR is important to schools

Today, personal data is often treated as a currency, showing how valuable it is to companies and organizations. Yet, individual’s rights should always be the number one priority. If you handle data in compliance with the GDPR, you can have a thriving school where students and staff know their data is put to good use, while maintaining their privacy.

Compliance in this sector, therefore, is important.

How does GDPR affect the educational sector

Schools handle lots of personal information. The data is often complex. Basic information includes name, contact information and photo ID, and details on grades and medical information.

Schools also hold information on staff, job applicants and others associated with the school. It’s important to remember that personal data includes both digital and paper-based information.

There is also a category that the GDPR calls special category data. This is information about racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs, political opinions, biometric data and trade union membership. This data category contains extremely sensitive information. It needs to be correctly protected so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Understanding the risk of data breaches

Since the information is sensitive, it might be valuable in the wrong hands. Therefore, schools can be targets for security breaches. That makes privacy measures of the utmost importance. Data protection needs to be a part of day-to-day operations. Having a detailed protocol for data processing helps ensure that your data won’t be subject to a security breach, whether the leak is caused by an honest mistake or an outside threat.

On a positive note, a survey from the Information Commissioner’s Office, shows that the trust for public sector is far greater than for commercial counterparts. Trust has also increased in 2018, and GDPR has likely played a part in that. This means that schools and universities already have a strong starting position. However, there is reason to further increase trust and work on compliance.

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The biggest GDPR challenges for schools

Working with data privacy in schools has its challenges. It is vital that you meet the demands of the regulation to protect individual’s rights, while using data in an effective and responsible manner.

1. GDPR knowledge and training

One of the biggest challenges of data privacy in schools it that a variety of staff need to act under the GDPR. Not everyone might have the right training. Having a well-informed Data Protection Officer is important. But it’s equally important that staff who handle data on a day-to-day basis have knowledge on risks and proper data management.

2. Complex data management

Schools handle large amounts of data, and different roles need different data. The school nurse will need a student’s medical information, whereas a teacher needs an overview of the student’s grades and test results. GDPR means that schools will have to introduce new record keeping.

3. Transparency and trust

Not only are schools expected to be compliant. They must also be able to prove they are. To keep the records and communication transparent means that data processes should adhere to the regulation, but they also need to be easily understood.

Both data subjects and authorities can demand to see what data your schools hold, and how it is managed. You’ll have to produce an overview of the information of a specific student, and this information should be clear and transparent. To prove compliance to authorities, your reports should also be transparent and easy to understand.

According to the 2018 ICO survey, only 18% have a good understanding of how their personal information is used by organisations. Lack of understanding makes it hard for people to trust their data it’s not mishandled. Communication with your data subjects is crucial.


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