Data protection ban on publishing exam results 'a myth'

Claims that the Data Protection Act bans newspapers from publishing school examination results are wrong, schools were told today.

“Publishing examination results is a common and accepted practice and many students enjoy seeing their name in print; it is a myth that the Data Protection Act stops this from happening,” said David Smith, deputy commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which oversees the working of data protection and freedom of information.

“However, schools do have to act fairly when publishing results. Although schools do not have to gain the consent of pupils and parents before publishing exam results, any objections made must be taken seriously.”

His comments came as the ICO published guidance on publishing examination results aimed an ensuring that schools, universities, colleges and students were aware of their rights and obligations under the Act.

It outlines schools’ responsibilities under the Act when disclosing students’ exam results, for example to the local media, for publication – students and, where appropriate, parents needed to be told how the information about results would be used and who would be allowed to see it.

An ICO spokesman said it also wanted to remind students that the Act also gave them rights to access their own exam information, such as examiners’ comments.

Universities, schools and colleges should deal with such access requests promptly and respond within 40 days, he said.

But he added that students could not use the right to obtain exam marks before they were published officially.

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