By Arwen Hann
Early childhood education services are being encouraged to review their privacy responsibilities and how they handle privacy following the release of a new report from the Education Review Office (ERO).
The report is based on ERO's evaluations of centres it reviewed during Term 1 2015.
The report looks at what service leaders understood about how information about children should be collected, stored and shared with families and third parties both on paper and online.
The report showed that most services were dealing with their privacy responsibilities well, but many had minor areas in which they could improve.
Around a quarter of services needed to make major changes and increase staff knowledge in this area.
Other areas of concern included how, when and what information could be passed to non-custodial parents if the parents were separated and the review of privacy issues on a regular basis. (click here for guidance on disclosure and a policy template)
For example, although most services asked for parents permission on enrolment for sharing of photos and information, these permissions were not regularly reviewed, and parents were not given regular opportunities to update or change their agreements.
More work was also needed by some services in dealing with online privacy, such as the sharing of photos on a service’s Facebook page and managing how parents used their own cellphones during a session especially at special events like birthday celebrations. (click here for guidance on dealing with online privacy)
There was no mention in the report of privacy issues regarding service leaders and teachers sharing children’s information when they are dealing with government organisations. For example entering information into the ELI database which may now or at any future date be shared among government departments and with contractors tasked with recruiting children into ECE, during a standard ERO review visit, or teachers using children’s portfolios and assessments as examples when applying for and maintaining their practising certificate.
Many people may not consider this an issue as the Ministry of Education, ERO and the Education Council are regulated authorities, but thought should perhaps be given as to whether parents should be asked for permission before their family's personal and children’s information is shared in this way as well.