Confidentiality

 

Introduction

DfES Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (July 2000) states ‘Schools should have a clear and explicit confidentiality policy which is advertised to students, staff, parents and visitors’.

UTC Bolton also recognises the need under the Every Child Matters agenda to have a clear confidentiality policy in order to meet the outcomes of “being healthy” and “staying safe”.

The Data Protection, Freedom of Information & Human Rights Acts, Children Act as well as the overarching Every Child Matters agenda have all been taken into consideration when developing this policy.

It is important schools have an established procedure for dealing with confidentiality, which is understood by students, staff, parents, carers and visitors rather than develop ad hoc arrangements in response to a crisis. The procedures need to be consistent and protect the interests of both students and staff. Having this policy will help to ensure there is a shared understanding of how confidentiality operates in our school community. A consistent, shared ethos and practice will help students, staff, parents, carers and visitors deal with and know where they stand with confidential issues and will help you to deal with disclosure of information and establish ways of working (for example in our Culture Curriculum) which respect privacy and avoid unnecessary personal disclosure.

This document does not suggest that all members of the UTC community should offer the same levels of confidentiality. Steps need to be taken to ensure that confidential disclosures are made to the appropriate person at the appropriate time. In order to ensure this, all members of the UTC Bolton community need to be aware of the limits of confidentiality available in different circumstances and by different individuals.

Human Rights Act 1998. Gives everyone the right to “respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”, unless this is overridden by the ‘public interest’, e.g. for reasons of Child Protection, for the protection of public safety, public order, health or morals or for the rights and freedoms of others.

Data Protection Act 1998. Applies to personal data of living, identifiable individuals, not anonymised data; manual and electronic records. Schools need to be clear, when collecting personal data, what purposes it will be used for and schools should have policies to clarify this to staff, students and parents.

Freedom of Information Act 2000. Amends the Data Protection Act. Gives everyone the right to request any records a public body, including schools, holds about them. A school may withhold information it has if it is considered the information may damage the recipient, if disclosed. Schools data or record keeping policy should also cover the requirements of this Act.

Children Act 2004. The statutory guidance in section 11 of the Children Act 2004 states that in order to safeguard and promote children’s welfare, the agencies covered by section 11 should make arrangements to ensure that:

  • all staff in contact with children and young people understand what to do and the most effective ways of sharing information if they believe that a child and family may require particular services in order to achieve positive outcomes;
  • all staff in contact with children and young people understand what to do and when to share information if they believe that a child may be a child in need, including those children suffering or at risk of suffering harm;
  • appropriate agency-specific guidance is produced to complement guidance issued by central Government, and such guidance and appropriate training is made available to new staff as part of their induction and ongoing training;
  • guidance and training specifically covers the sharing of information between professions, organisations and agencies, as well as within them, and arrangements for training take into account the value of multi-agency as well as single agency training;
  • managers in children’s services are fully conversant with the legal framework and good practice guidance issued for practitioners working with children and young people.
  • the statutory guidance in section 10 of the Children Act 2004 makes it clear that effective information sharing supports the duty to co-operate to improve the well-being of children.

The designated person with responsibility for dealing with the implementation of this confidentiality policy is the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

The Rationale

At UTC Bolton we believe that:

  • We seek to put the student at the heart of the learning process and to provide a safe and secure learning environment. We seek to implement the underlying principles of the Every Child Matters agenda and to address the issues, which may arise about confidentiality.  We are committed to recognising the responsibility to use, hold and safeguard information received.
  • The safety, well-being and protection of our students are the paramount consideration in all decisions staff at this school make about confidentiality. The appropriate sharing of information between UTC staff is an essential element in ensuring our students well-being and safety.
  • It is an essential part of the ethos of our UTC that trust is established to enable students, staff, and parents/carers to seek help both within and outside the school and minimise the number of situations when personal information is shared to ensure students, staff are supported and safe
  • Students, parents/carers and staff need to know the boundaries of confidentiality in order to feel safe and comfortable in discussing personal issues and concerns, including sex and relationships.
  • Sharing information unnecessarily is an erosion of trust. This UTC is mindful that all stakeholders place it in a position of trust, and there is a general expectation that a professional approach will be used in all matters of confidentiality.
  • The UTC’s attitude to confidentiality is open and easily understood and everyone should be able to trust the boundaries of confidentiality operating within the UTC.
  • Issues concerning personal information including sex and relationships and other personal matters can arise at any time.
  • Everyone in the UTC community needs to know that no one can offer absolute confidentiality.
  • Everyone in the UTC community needs to know the limits of confidentiality that can be offered by individuals within the school community so they can make informed decisions about the most appropriate person to talk to about any health, sex and relationship or other personal issue they want to discuss.

This policy was agreed by the CEO and Principal and the school’s Governing Body, and has been widely disseminated to staff, students, parents and carers and partner agencies. It forms part of the induction of all new staff and is reviewed every year.

 

Definition of Confidentiality

The dictionary definition of confidential is “something which is spoken or given in confidence; private, entrusted with another’s secret affairs”.

When speaking confidentially to someone the confider has the belief that the confidant will not discuss the content of the conversation with another. The confider is asking for the content of the conversation to be kept secret. Anyone offering absolute confidentiality to someone else would be offering to keep the content of his or her conversation completely secret and discuss it with no one.

In practice there are few situations where absolute confidentiality is offered at UTC Bolton. We have tried to strike a balance between ensuring the safety, well-being and protection of our students and staff, ensuring there is an ethos of trust where students and staff can ask for help when they need it and ensuring that when it is essential to share personal information child protection issues and good practice is followed.

This means that in most cases what is on offer is limited confidentiality. Disclosure of the content of a conversation could be discussed with professional colleagues but the confider would not be identified except in certain circumstances.

The general rule is that staff should make clear that there are limits to confidentiality, at the beginning of the conversation. These limits relate to ensuring children’s safety and well-being. The student will be informed when a confidence has to be broken for this reason and will be encouraged to do this for themselves whenever this is possible.

Different levels of confidentiality are appropriate for different circumstances.

  1. In the classroom in the course of a lesson given by a member of teaching staff or an outside visitor, including employers, sponsors, partners and health professionals. Careful thought needs to be given to the content of the lesson, setting the climate and establishing ground rules to ensure confidential disclosures are not made. It should be made clear to students that this is not the time or place to disclose confidential, personal information (See setting ground rules). When a health professional is contributing to a UTC health education programme in a classroom setting, s/he is working with the same boundaries of confidentiality as a teacher. However, this school recognises the importance of multi-agency working and acknowledges and supports the differences between the role of any non-school staff as educators, and as providers of information and support to students (such as a school nurse who may have a dual role of teaching support in the classroom and in a confidential one-to-one drop-in session). The boundaries between these roles will be clarified and agreed prior to involvement.
  2. One to one disclosures to members of school staff (including voluntary staff).

It is essential all members of staff know the limits of the confidentiality they can offer to both students and parents/carers (see note below) and any required actions and sources of further support or help available both for the student or parent/carer and for the staff member within the school and from other agencies, where appropriate. All staff encourage students to discuss difficult issues with their parents or carers, and vice versa. However, the needs of the student are paramount and UTC staff will not automatically share information about the student with his/her parents/carers unless it is considered to be in the child’s best interests.

(NB when concerns for a child or young person come to the attention of staff, for example through observation of behaviour or injuries or disclosure, however insignificant this might appear to be, the member of staff should discuss this with the Designated Safeguarding Lead as soon as is practically possible. More serious concerns must be reported immediately to ensure that any intervention necessary to protect the child is accessed as early as possible. Please see the UTC’s Safeguarding Policy.

  1. Disclosures to a counsellor, school nurse or health professional operating a confidential service in the school.

Health professionals such as school nurses can give confidential medical advice to students provided they are competent to do so and follow the Fraser Guidelines (guidelines for doctors and other health professionals on giving medical advice to under 16s). School nurses are skilled in discussing issues and possible actions with young people and always have in mind the need to encourage students to discuss issues with their parents or carers. However, the needs of the student are paramount and the school nurse will not insist that a student’s parents or carers are informed about any advice or treatment they give.

Contraceptive advice and pregnancy:

The DoH issued guidance in July 2004 which clarifies and confirms that health professionals owe young people under 16 the same duty of care and confidentiality as older patients. It sets out principles of good practice in providing contraception and sexual health advice to under-16s. The duty of care and confidentiality applies to all under-16s. Whether a young person is competent to consent to treatment or is in serious danger is judged by the health professional on the circumstances of each individual case, not solely on the age of the patient. However, the younger the patient the greater the concern that they may be being abused or exploited. The guidance makes it clear that health professionals must make time to explore whether there may be coercion or abuse. Cases of grave concern would be referred through child protection/safeguarding procedures.

The legal position for UTC staff:

UTC staff should not promise confidentiality. Students do not have the right to expect that incidents will not be reported to his/her parents/carers and may not, in the absence of an explicit promise, assume that information conveyed outside that context is private. No member of this UTC’s staff can or should give such a promise. The safety, well-being and protection of the child is the paramount consideration in all decisions staff at this UTC make about confidentiality.

UTC staff are NOT obliged to break confidentiality except where child protection or crime is or may be an issue, however, at UTC Bolton we believe it is important that staff are able to share their concerns about students with colleagues in a professional and supportive way, on a need to know basis, to ensure staff receive the guidance and support they need and the students’ safety and well-being is maintained. For example, staff can initially seek advice and support for themselves when dealing with a disclosure whilst keeping the individual’s identity anonymous.  UTC staff should discuss such concerns with the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Students should be informed of sources of confidential help, for example, the school nurse or their own GP.

Teachers, counsellor and health professionals:

Professional judgement is required by a teacher, counsellor or health professional in considering whether he or she should indicate to a child that the child could make a disclosure in confidence and whether such a confidence could then be maintained having heard the information. In exercising their professional judgement the teacher, counsellor or health professional must consider the best interests of the child including the need to both ensure trust to provide safeguards for our children and possible child protection issues.

All teachers at UTC Bolton receive basic training in safeguarding as part of their induction to the UTC and are expected to follow the UTC’s Safeguarding Policy.

Counsellors and Health Professionals: At UTC Bolton we offer students the support of counselling services with appointments accessed discreetly through the Director of Inclusion and Student Support Services, and the PCT operates a drop in service for students.  These services are confidential between the counsellor or health professional and the individual student. No information is shared with school staff except as defined in the UTC’s safeguarding policy, and guidance from the relevant child protection legislation. This is essential to maintain the trust needed for these services to meet the needs of our students.

Parents/carers:

UTC Bolton believes that it is essential to work in partnership with parents and carers and we endeavour to keep parents/carers abreast of their child’s progress at school, including any concerns about their progress or behaviour. However, we also need to maintain a balance so that our students can share any concerns and ask for help when they need it. Where a student does discuss a difficult personal matter staff at UTC Bolton, they will be encouraged to also discuss the matter with their parent or carer themselves.

The safety, well-being and protection of our students is the paramount consideration in all decisions staff at this school make about confidentiality.

UTC Bolton acknowledges that:

  • Students and their parents/carers have a right to gain access to processed information upon written request.
  • Agencies such as the Police and Children and Young People’s Services may be able to get a court order to gain access to processed information, which the school deems confidential. This can also include the Local Authority’s legal department and insurers, as well as other solicitors, e.g. in custody cases.

Any information recorded about a student will be written in a way that assumes it will be read by either the subject or their parents/carers.

Complex cases:

Where there are areas of doubt about the sharing of information you should seek the advice of the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Statement of ground rules to be used in lessons

We adopt ground rules to ensure a safe environment for teaching particularly in our culture curriculum and Daily Contact time. This reduces anxiety to students and staff and minimises unconsidered, unintended personal disclosures.

At the beginning of each session, students are reminded of the ground rules by the teacher or outside visitor. The teacher establishes the ground rules together with the students at the beginning of each half term of teaching.

This is an example of the ground rules for a Year 10 class:

  • We won’t ask each other or the teacher any personal questions
  • We will respect each other and not laugh, tease or hurt others
  • We won’t say things we want to keep confidential
  • We can pass or opt out of something if it makes us feel uncomfortable
  • If we do find out things about other students, which are personal and private, we won’t talk about it outside the lesson
  • If we do find out things about other students, which are personal and private, we won’t talk about it outside the lesson, but
  • If we are worried about someone else’s safety we tell a teacher

 

When confidentiality should be broken?

 

Crime

Confidentiality should be broken when a failure to disclose would undermine the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime (Serious crime for the purposes of this guidance means any crime which causes or is likely to cause significant harm to a child or young person or serious harm to an adult) including where seeking consent might lead to interference with any potential investigation.

 

Student Protection

Confidentiality should be broken where a failure to disclose would put a child, young person or others at increased risk of significant harm or an adult at risk of serious harm. Student Protection procedures should be followed as outlined in the Safeguarding Policy document.

Where this does not apply and you are still concerned and unsure of whether the information should be passed on or other action taken you should speak to the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

 

Support for staff

Staff may have support needs themselves in dealing with some of the personal issues of our students. At UTC Bolton we prefer you to ask for help rather than possibly making a poor decision because you don’t have all the facts or the necessary training, or taking worries about students home with you. There are many agencies we can refer students to who need additional support which and we have procedures to ensure this happens. We all work together as part of a team to support our students and asking for help is a way we ensure UTC Bolton is a happy and safe learning environment. All staff should discuss any concerns about students with their immediate line manager. Any unresolved issues should be discussed with the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

 

Onward referral:

The SENDCo and Director of Inclusion and Student Support Services, are responsible for referring students to the UTC counsellor and to outside agencies from the UTC. Please do not make referrals yourself unless you believe a child protection referral to the police or Children Families & Social Care is necessary and the Designated Safeguarding Lead does not agree.

Students can also obtain confidential help themselves through their own GP, the school nurse, Childline and the NSPCC.

Information Sharing

Sharing information is vital for early intervention to ensure that children and young people with additional needs get the services they require. It is also essential to protect children and young people from suffering harm from abuse or neglect and to prevent them from offending.

Improving information sharing practice is therefore a cornerstone of the Government Every Child Matters strategy to improve outcomes for children.

It is important that practitioners understand when, why and how they should share information so that they can do so confidently and appropriately as part of their day-to-day practice.

There are six key principles for sharing information:

  • You should explain to children, young people and families at the outset, openly and honestly, what and how information will, or could be shared and why, and seek their agreement. The exception to this is where to do so would put that child, young person or others at increased risk of significant harm or an adult at risk of serious harm, or if it would undermine the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime including where seeking consent might lead to interference with any potential investigation.
  • You must always consider the safety and welfare of a child or young person when making decisions on whether to share information about them. Where there is 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.
  • You should, where possible, respect the wishes of children, young people or families who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information, if in your judgement on the facts of the case; there is sufficient need to override that lack of consent.
  • You should seek advice where you are in doubt, especially where your doubt relates to a concern about possible significant harm to a child or serious harm to others.
  • You should ensure that the information you share is accurate and up-to-date, necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, shared only with those people who need to see it, and shared securely.
  • You should always record the reasons for your decision – whether it is to share information or not.

Dissemination

This policy has been distributed to all staff. All staff are under a contractual obligation to uphold the policy as with all other UTC policies. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disciplinary procedures being followed.

All new staff receive a copy of the policy, together with basic training on the school’s Safeguarding Policy and procedures from the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

A summarised poster version of this policy is displayed in the UTC’s Reception, Interview & Meeting Rooms and all offices.

This policy is available to parents via the UTC’s website.

Review

This policy is reviewed every year or whenever deemed necessary by the Principal and Governors in the light of events and changes in the law.

Origination Authorised by Issue No. Date
David Goddard Dr Zubair Hanslot 1 April 2015