Our sponsor SchoolPro TLC provide some helpful and current advice about confidential references and subject access requests.
When it comes to subject access requests and exemptions, it is important to understand the various exceptions that apply to certain types of personal data.
One specific exemption relates to confidential references. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Data Protection Act 2018, personal data included in a confidential reference is exempt from the right of access in specific circumstances.
The exemption applies to references given or received for the purpose of prospective or actual education, training, employment, volunteer placement, appointment to office, or provision of services by an individual. It is important to note that this exemption only applies to references that are provided in confidence.
To ensure clarity in your documentation, especially for educational references, it is advisable to state explicitly that all references will be treated as confidential. This should be communicated to both the individuals providing the referees and those providing the reference itself.
For example, instead of a simple instruction like “Please provide details of two referees.”
You can modify it to convey that all references will be treated as confidential.
A revised statement could be: “Please provide details of two referees. All references will be treated as confidential.”
If your references are considered confidential, you will need to ensure staff dealing with subject access requests are aware of, and have adequate guidance to follow in order to prevent accidental release of your confidential references.
Understanding these exemptions and clearly communicating the confidentiality of references will help ensure compliance with Data Protection regulations and maintain the privacy and trust of individuals involved in the process.
By Ben Craig for the SchoolPro TLC Team
For more detailed information on other exemptions that apply to subject access requests, check out SchoolPro TLC's SAR Guidance and/or the ICO website and contact the SchoolPro TLC team directly for support.
If you are interested in this topic and wish to find out more about working in this area, you can find out more about how you could Make a Difference with SchoolPro TLC.
We are grateful to our SWIFT sponsors for their services and their support helps to provide additional funding for us to subsidise the cost of conferences and events as part of our high-quality professional development offer to school leaders, teachers and staff.