School data breach leaks sensitive information about pupils

A data breach at a secondary school saw sensitive data leaked to parents and students.

A teacher at Greensward Academy in Hockley, Essex, shared a raft of sensitive information about Year 11 students at the school, including:

  • Students’ addresses
  • Free school meal status
  • Deprivation status
  • Exam dispensation
  • Special educational needs

Year 11 students at the school and their parents could access the data via the Google Classroom platform. The teacher shared a mock exams timetable with students and parents but didn’t realise the document also included the sensitive information listed above.

A parent of a school student told Yahoo! News: “It’s just unacceptable for this to happen.

“Some kids might not want other kids to know these things about them, as sadly, when it comes to stuff like free school meals, they might be mocked or looked down upon.”

A pupil told Yahoo! News that the teacher posted the document online on 17th January and that it wasn’t removed until five days later.

They told Yahoo! News: “Kids are going around saying other people are on benefits. Some of my friends are on there and they’re not comfortable that other people know their disabilities or if they are getting free meals.”

Following this incident, Greensward Academy wrote to the parents of all Year 11 pupils at the school, explaining what had happened and the actions taken in response to the data breach.

The letter, signed by the school’s education support manager, Tom Gibbs-Digby, read: “At Greensward Academy, we take the security of personal data extremely seriously and work hard to ensure we work within the GDPR regulations to keep your personal data secure.

“The information was only visible to Year 11 students and their parents/carers registers with Greensward Academy and was not visible to any other outside parties, companies or organisations.

“The incident was reported immediately and has been logged with our data controller as a data breach. An investigation has taken place and the staff involved have been given training and guidance in an effort to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The school also asked any students or parents who had downloaded the document from Google Classroom to delete it from their devices.

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