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

evertonmint Thu 23-May-13 22:27:35

I'm with you 109%on this.

Have DS in Reception. I thought I would care where he is placed in class but actually have realised that all I care about is that he is progressing, and that we identify areas where he needs particular support. Its irrelevant how he's positioned to others as it tells me very little about his progress.

You don't need to know where your child is positioned relative to others to support them. You really really don't need to know where other kids are. It's none of your business. And some parents and kids can be smug/cruel about this sort of stuff. It really should not be shared.

Am actually very shocked that the school thinks this is ok.

evertonmint Thu 23-May-13 22:29:58

And if you want to keep it, the argument about it being too difficult to produce is daft. An anonymous chart would be easy - each line is numbered, teacher has list of which child is which number, tells the parents which number is their child. Anonymity preserved, only one chart needed

evertonmint Thu 23-May-13 22:30:55

And I have no idea why that says 109% rather than 100% - I sound like an apprentice candidate smile

QOD Thu 23-May-13 22:31:00

They're being lazy surely? My dd primary did this but it was dd, national average line and her CLASS average line. It's a computer program, I'm sure they can do it like that
I'd be pissed off too, that's private

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:32:44

Thanks, everton. I feel the same! I was expecting the HT and chair of govs to agree with me, so I'm rather taken aback, and I'm not sure what to do next at this point. I honestly thought that my DC's teacher had made a mistake by showing us the data for all the children in the class, and now I've been told that that's official policy.

Even if you think it's good to know where your own DC ranks in the class (a notion that I, like you, don't agree with), I don't see why you need to see the PERSONAL NAMES of all the children. Why can't you be told that your DC is 7th of 30 or whatever, without seeing all the names in one long list? The more I think about it, the more pissed off I become.

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:35:33

QOD, I think it's laziness too. If the teachers don't have time to do it, surely admin staff could be paid to do it?

Yellowtip Thu 23-May-13 22:36:14

The naming of children is absolutely out of order and the HT is absolutely wrong in condoning this info being put in front of other parents.

piprabbit Thu 23-May-13 22:36:35

If they don't have the time or money to produce individual charts, they should stop using them and find another way of explaining to parents how their children are progressing. Simple.

Manchesterhistorygirl Thu 23-May-13 22:37:11

I wouldn't want the other parents knowing where my son was in relation to others. I want to know how he is progressing, not the others. There is one parent who would take great delight in broadcasting their offsprings relative place and have no problem slagging other kids off too.

piprabbit Thu 23-May-13 22:37:17

evertonmint's solution is genius.

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:37:52

everton, I read your message too quickly - have just realised what you mean by the number idea. That's brilliant and I'm going to suggest that to the school.

I agree, its helpful to know how your child is doing in relation to whats expected of them, its not helpful to know how they are doing in relation to the rest of the class. My ds would be at the bottom of the chart but thats no reflection of how hard he works (he is dyslexic so works twice as hard to get half as far) and I wouldn't be happy with other parents seeing that.

I agree 103% grin

Yellowtip Thu 23-May-13 22:38:29

I would challenge the HT by e-mail and copy your mail to your fellow governors. Ask for responses by reply all. Let everyone share the reasoning.

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:39:31

Exactly, Manchester. Most of the parents at our school are decent types, but you're always going to get the odd nasty person who is going to misuse the info.

Theimpossiblegirl Thu 23-May-13 22:40:16

We use these charts but they are for our eyes only. We write down the children's levels, sub-levels progress made so far, age related expectation and whether they are on target to make their expected progress. It is wrong and lazy to show other children's levels.

evertonmint Thu 23-May-13 22:42:10

Oooh I've never had a genius, brilliant idea before <heads to bed happy> grin

baffledgov Thu 23-May-13 22:42:29

Yellowtip, I think I'll do exactly that.

Agreed, Theimpossible, I have no problem with teachers sharing the info among themselves; it's sharing it with other parents that's wrong.

Yellowtip Thu 23-May-13 22:42:47

baffledgov I can't imagine there's a school in the country which doesn't have a pushy parent amongst its number. This is very bad practice indeed.

mydadsdaughter Thu 23-May-13 22:43:31

I'd be unhappy with this too, the only people who need to know this info is the parent and teacher, I am sensitive to things like this though, I heard a teacher the other day refer to a group of children as 'lowers' and had to bite my tongue, she didn't mean any harm (she is an excellent teacher) but its such a negative term

tabulahrasa Thu 23-May-13 22:44:05

It's fine if your child is average or above - but DS has SENs and I would be contacting the LEA if that were his information being made available for other parents to look at his parents' evening.

MNBlackpoolandFylde Thu 23-May-13 22:44:49

I am with you on this one, dd is sen and has had some issues with bullying following the teacher doing something similar on the whiteboard for all to see last years parents evening.

I have also had people annoyed because my dd only joined a couple of years ago and her being bottom in some subjects and her 1-1 intervention is not on apparently as she takes all the class resources. hmm

piprabbit Thu 23-May-13 22:45:42

It's not fine if your child is average or above. My DD is above average but I really don't want her subject to playground gossip either.

Yellowtip Thu 23-May-13 22:45:45

I don't have a particular issue with knowing where my DC are in relation to their cohort - though depending on the school, that info is fairly random. Knowing the id of other kids is so completely beyond the pale that I'm stunned that any school would do it.

Good to hear you're e-mailing smile

tabulahrasa Thu 23-May-13 22:49:29

I didn't mean it's fine as in ok to do...I meant, hmm, it's not so sensitive information?

What I meant was, I'd not be happy if it was DD's class, I'd be absolutely furious if it was DS's.

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.

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 14:20:45

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

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

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

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.

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.

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!)

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).

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.

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

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

roadkillbunny Tue 09-Jul-13 16:35:36

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!

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