Students occasionally make personal disclosures, either in class or to individual teachers or other members of staff. They may disclose that they are engaging in inappropriate sexual activity, that they or their friends or relatives are using drugs and even that they have been abused. Teachers and other members of staff may come to possess sensitive information about students, some of it about illegal activity.
The following general principles should be followed:
All parties need to be clear about the rules of confidentiality. Information about students should not be passed on indiscriminately.
Where there is a concern that the child may be suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm, the child’s safety and welfare must be the overriding consideration.
Members of staff are not able to offer students or their parents unconditional confidentiality. If staff receive information about behaviour likely to cause harm to the young person or to others, they must use the school’s safeguarding children procedures.
In lessons, teachers should establish from the beginning that it is inappropriate to disclose some personal information. Students need to be clear about not putting pressure on one another to answer questions about their own experiences. This also applies to staff.
Members of staff should make it clear to students that although most information can be kept confidential, some may need to be passed on in the young person’s best interests. However, the students will need to know when this has to happen, what will be done with the information and who will have access to it.
In the case of illegal activity, action should be taken in the best interests of the student. This does not necessarily involve informing the police. Teachers are not statutorily required to inform the police about illegal drug activity, for example. The Assistant Headteacher: Pupil Care or Deputy Headteacher will provide guidance about specific instances.
Members of staff are not generally or usually obliged to pass on information about students to their parents, although when the teacher believes the student to be at risk, or in breach of the law, they must ensure that the student is aware of the risks and encourage them to seek support of their parents. In some circumstances, it is in the student’s interests that information is passed on to their parents. If in doubt staff should clarify the situation with the Assistant Headteacher: Pupil Care or Deputy Headteacher.
Sixth Form Listeners will pass information to the relevant members of staff.
Where outside agencies and others provide support for the curriculum in school, they must be made aware of and abide by this policy. However, they may also have a role in providing advice and support directly to students. The boundary between these two roles must be agreed with the school and the distinction in terms of right to confidentiality, be made clear to the students.
Other professions are bound by their own codes of confidentiality. For example, health professionals, such as the school nurse, are bound by the medical code of confidentiality in their work with children and young people.