Legal and Organisation Requirements Relating to: Data protection; Copyright; Privacy; Confidentiality; Safe Guarding Disclosure.

Last Updated on 29/08/2023 by James Barron


Educational institutions shoulder the dual responsibility of fostering learning and safeguarding sensitive information. This article explores the intricacies of data protection within the educational sector, emphasising the significance of policies, copyright enforcement, and legal frameworks, such as the Data Protection Act and GDPR. Through a comprehensive examination of student privacy, understanding of confidential information, and best practices in safeguarding data, this article underscores the measures ensuring the confidentiality and security of data in educational settings, reinforcing the institution’s commitment to trust and integrity.


In the digital age, data security and confidentiality have become paramount across various sectors. The realm of education is no exception. Educational establishments, being repositories of a plethora of sensitive information about students and staff, bear a profound responsibility. From basics such as names and addresses to more confidential data, such as academic records and financial details, these institutions are entrusted with safeguarding vast amounts of data. In this context, it is crucial to understand the various facets of data protection within the educational sector, from established policies and procedures to the legal framework and best practices that guide these establishments.

Data Protection Policies and Procedures

It is an essential requirement that all teaching establishments have policies (Data Protection Policy) and procedures in place to ensure data protection is not breached. This will be implemented using two primary methods, the first is educating staff to ensure they understand the data protection policy and how it relates to them, the second method is to implement security systems to prevent unauthorised data breaches, such as all users have password protected accounts.

Copyright Rules and Enforcement

It is essential that copyright rules are enforced within all teaching establishments, as they would be liable to legal action if it was discovered that members of staff were breaching copyright. This is handled within the teaching organisation using two methods; the first is to educate staff in what is acceptable, such as the guides to follow when photocopying and scanning from printed material and the second method is to implement further security systems preventing staff and students from installing software, thus removing the opportunity to install pirated software.

Student Privacy and GDPR

Students provide the teaching establishment with a large amount of information that must remain private under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This information relates to personal information about the student, it is not confidential as a large number of people will know this information, such as their address, however, students are unlikely to want their address broadcast to all their class mates. It is essential that privacy notices when students originally enrol are clear regarding how their information will be used and stored.

Understanding Confidential Information

“Confidential information is any information to which the common law ‘duty of confidence’ applies” (UCL, 2019), confidential information is information that only a limited number of people know, this is information that you may share with your doctor and that you wouldn’t want anyone else knowing. It is possible this information would have an impact on a student’s studies and as a result may need sharing with their tutor; this information doesn’t need reporting or referring and so should remain confidential. The vast majority of confidential information that is provided to staff will remain confidential and if sharing that information would benefit the student, permission will be obtained before the information is shared.

Safeguarding and Confidentiality Breaches

There are some exceptions to keeping information confidential, these exceptions relate to the health and wellbeing of students, including the student sharing the information. This could include a student disclosing they are being abused, in this situation the lecturer must make it clear, ideally before the disclosure, that the information must be shared with the safeguarding team so that it can be referred to the correct authority. Another reason that confidentiality will be broken is if a student discloses that they plan to harm another student or member of staff. Staff must be educated on the procedure that must be followed and that it is clearly documented in the safeguarding policy.

The legal requirements and agreed ways of working for the security and confidentiality of information within education.

The legal requirements and agreed ways of working regarding the security and confidentiality of information are paramount within the educational sector. The Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandate educational institutions to protect personal data, ensuring it is processed lawfully, transparently, and for a specific purpose. Only data that is necessary for the institution’s operation should be stored, and it must be kept accurate and up-to-date. Furthermore, institutions must have explicit consent to process personal data and must provide avenues for individuals to request data access or erasure. Beyond these legal requirements, educational establishments also adopt agreed-upon best practices, such as password-protected digital systems, restricted access to sensitive files, regular staff training, and clear protocols for data sharing. These collaborative measures ensure not only compliance with the law but also the establishment of a trusted environment where stakeholders are assured of the sanctity of their personal information.


In summation, educational institutions stand at the crossroads of imparting knowledge and preserving the sanctity of sensitive information. With the ever-evolving digital landscape, it’s imperative for these establishments to adhere to stringent data protection protocols and legal mandates like the Data Protection Act and GDPR. By understanding and implementing robust policies, enforcing copyright rules, and ensuring clarity around confidentiality, educational institutions can foster a trusted environment. This not only maintains the privacy rights of students and staff but also solidifies the institution’s reputation as a responsible and secure entity in the educational domain.

Further reading

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier

This book delves into the world of mass surveillance, data collection, and the implications for personal privacy. Schneier explores the various ways governments and corporations collect and use data, often without public knowledge or consent. He argues for comprehensive reforms to protect individual privacy and ensure data security.

The Data Protection Officer: Profession, Rules, and Role by Paul Lambert

This book provides an in-depth understanding of data protection regulations, including the GDPR. It outlines the responsibilities, challenges, and best practices for someone tasked with overseeing data protection within an organization. The book serves as a practical guide for both aspiring and experienced Data Protection Officers.

Privacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions by Marc Rotenberg, Jeramie Scott, and Julia Horwitz

This collection of essays and articles tackles the complex issue of privacy in the digital era. It brings together multiple perspectives, including legal, technological, and societal viewpoints, to discuss existing challenges and propose possible solutions. The book aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of modern privacy issues.

Understanding the GDPR: More than 90 Answers to Questions on the General Data Protection Regulation by Paul Voigt and Axel von dem Bussche

This book serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It addresses common questions and challenges associated with GDPR compliance and offers practical advice for implementation. The book is designed for legal professionals, data protection officers, and business leaders navigating GDPR.

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know by P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman

This book provides an accessible overview of the complex world of cybersecurity and cyber warfare. It addresses key questions about online threats, cybersecurity policies, and the impact on global politics and economics. Intended for a general audience, the book seeks to educate readers about the significance of cybersecurity in the modern world.

Privacy on the Ground: Driving Corporate Behavior in the United States and Europe by Kenneth A. Bamberger and Deirdre K. Mulligan

This book explores how companies in the U.S. and Europe approach data protection and privacy issues. It examines the roles of corporate culture, leadership, and regulation in shaping privacy practices and compares the effectiveness of different models. The authors aim to provide insights into how privacy can be better managed in a corporate setting.

Student Data Privacy: Building a School Compliance Program by Linnette Attai

This book serves as a guide for educational institutions to establish and maintain a student data privacy compliance program. It outlines the legal requirements, ethical considerations, and best practices for protecting student data. The book is intended for educators, administrators, and IT professionals who are responsible for safeguarding student information.

The Future of Privacy by Eduardo Ustaran

This book offers a forward-looking analysis of privacy issues, examining the challenges posed by emerging technologies and data collection methods. Ustaran explores potential future scenarios for privacy, including the impact of AI, IoT, and big data, while suggesting legislative and technological solutions. The book aims to provoke thought about how society can protect privacy in an increasingly interconnected world.


UCL. (2019). Handling confidential information from students. Retrieved from University College London:

Author Profile

James Barron
My first experience of teaching was in 2016, when I was asked to
deliver a talk to a group of 16-year-olds on what it was like to start
your own business. I immediately knew I wanted to become more
involved in teaching but I didn’t know where to start as I had not
previously considered a career in education. A few weeks later I
agreed to teach a class of Chinese students from the Shanghai
Technical Institute of Electronics and Information, who had travelled
to the UK to learn English and Software Engineering, after that I was
hooked. Within the next few years, I taught hundreds of students of
many different nationalities, aged from 16 to 60, and from
levels 2 to 6. I focused my time teaching with Bath University and
Bath College for several more years until I felt a change was in order.
For the last few years, I have taught remotely with several private
training organisations, provided dedicated one to one coaching
sessions, provided consultancy on teaching and assessment practices
and written about my experiences as a teacher. I plan to continue
with my current activities for the foreseeable future but I’m always
open to new teaching experiences.

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