Adults who work with children in any setting need to know and understand the current legislation, as this will a?ect their practice. As said in the previous Unit (Understand How to Safeguard the Wellbeing of Children and Young People), there is an increased awareness of how important it is to recognise the uniqueness of each child and have respect for their human rights. Legislation is an area which is constantly under review and we need to keep up to date through reading the relevant publications. In particular, we need to read and comply with the following:
1) Every Child Matters 2003: this is a UK Government initiative for England and Wales, that was launched in 2003, in response to the death of Victoria Climbié. It is one of the most important policy initiative introduced in relation to children and children’s services. It has been the title of three Government papers, leading to the Children Act 2004. Every Child Matters covers children and young adults up to the age of 19, or 24 for those with disabilities.
2) Data Protection Act 1998: this Act requires that teaching and non-teaching professionals understand the correct balance in processing personal information to respect the individuals’ privacy where it needs protection. Most schools now use an electronic information management system, where information should be kept safe and secure by using passwords, and many operate their own websites. However, many schools are also likely to hold some information on paper. This information includes names, contact numbers and addresses. Personal data should always be processed fairly and lawfully. In educational settings we must ask parents and carers for a variety of information so that we are able to care for children as e?ectively as we can while they are with us. However, we can only ask for relevant information regarding:
? health, dietary needs, medical information;
? records from previous schools;
? records for children who have special educational needs.
This information must be used only for the purpose for which it was gathered. If the information needs to be shared with other professionals for any reason, parental consent needs to be given. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, any organisation which holds information on individuals needs to be registered with the Data Protection Commission. This is designed to ensure that con?dential information will not be passed on to any third parties without a signed consent. There are eight principles of practice which govern the use of personal information. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, all educational settings when dealing with personal information must comply with eight principles of good practice.
Personal data must be:
? processed fairly and lawfully;
? used only for limited purposes;
? adequate, relevant and not excessive;
? accurate and not kept longer than necessary;
? processed according to the individual’s rights;
? kept secure;
? not transferred outside the European Union without the adequate protection.
Giving out any of this information is a breach of confidentiality. However, practitioners can disclose personal information concerning a child to other members of staff on a need to know basis. In fact, every member of staff must be aware of their responsibility to share information regarding the child’s health, well-being, welfare or protection with other agencies. For example, when a child or a young person discloses information to a practitioner asking that the information remains a secret, it is crucial that the member of staff tells the child/young person that they have a duty to transfer the information to the appropriate agencies.
As teaching assistants, we have the responsibility to ensure information is correct and all records are stored safely so that access is restricted to only those who are involved.
Lack of confidentiality can have a serious impact on parents and their children and by betraying their trust it will damage the working relationship.
We need to be aware of a range of information in our role as a teaching assistant, from issues around the school to the individual needs of the children with whom we work. We should also know how and when to share any information we have access to.
In case of concern, the members of staff should make records and report it to the designated child protection officer, ensuring that these records are kept confidentially and separated from pupils’ records. In fact, if we suspect that a child is being abused or is at risk of suffering significant harm, we may decide to pass this information on.
There may also be cases where information on pupils needs to be accessible to all sta?; for example, in case a child has speci?c medical conditions such as asthma or epilepsy. In this case there should be an agreed system within the school for making sure that all sta? are aware of these pupils. Some schools may display photographs of them in sta?rooms or in dining areas and remove them if the premises are used by other people during the evening.
We must always remember that every family has the right to privacy and we should report our concerns in the genuine interests of the child, in good faith and to safeguard children’s welfare. If we pass on information without following the correct channels, we will be abusing our position of professional trust and this can be highly damaging. If we are unclear about whom we can speak to, the ?rst point of contact should be the line manager, or in case of children with special educational needs (SEN), the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). However, employers should provide clear advice to the school’s staff about their responsibilities under this legislation.
In any case, we should not pass on information to:
? other children in the educational setting,
? other parents,
? other professionals unless parents have been consulted,
Another policy to take into consideration is the one regarding photographs and videos. This policy is carried out via photo usage consent forms, which help to prevent the misuse of children’s images. The policy protects children by their images not being indiscriminately distributed. Pictures should only be used according to the purpose they were intended, and if consent was not given by parents or carers no photographs or videoclips of that child should be taken. This ensures that vulnerable children’s and young people’s parents have the choice to deny the usage of their children’s images.