Wakefield academy trust 'made a mistake' over data sharing letter

An academies trust has admitted they "made a mistake" in asking for permission to share students' information with a local housing association.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 3:30 pm
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 4:30 pm
The letter was sent to parents at Outwood Academy Hemsworth and Outwood Grange Academy, in Wakefield.

In a letter sent home to parents earlier this month, Outwood Grange Academies Trust said they had launched a new partnership with Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) and asked for permission to share information about students and their families.

The letter said that this would enable “both parties to provide better safeguarding, health and wellbeing support to students and their immediate family members at school and in their homes.”

But some parents raised concerns about the implications of sharing such data. One parent told the Express that the letter was "like a credit check".

The letter was sent to parents at Outwood Academy Hemsworth and Outwood Grange Academy, in Wakefield.

As well as information on historic addresses and contact details, the school would also share contact information on grandparents and siblings, notes on students’ health, their behaviour and details from other organisations including the NHS, police and the local authority.

According to the letter, WDH would also share information with the school, including details on rent account details, records of anti-social and criminal behaviour and any current or ongoing actions against the tenancy.

Councillor Maureen Cummings said she had been approached by a number of concerned families regarding the letter.

She said: "It’s more than a little bit unusual, I think. I thought it was intrusive, I thought they were asking for far more information than was needed. And some of it I suspect was in breach of GDPR.

"A number of people that contacted me (were concerned) that this would affect their children’s education if they didn't complete it.

“I’m not sure why they’re asking the questions in the first place. When a child goes to school they do need to know who the parents are and how they can contact parents in case that child requires attention. But much more than that I’m not sure what they would need. They were intrusive."

But the trust is now admitting they made a mistake in asking for the information, and advised parents to discard the previous letter.

A spokesperson for Outwood Grange Academies Trust said: “We have a positive partnership with Wakefield District Housing, working together to better support the communities we both have the privilege to work in and serve. While it was always a voluntary decision, we respect the strength of feeling that has been shown against a data sharing agreement.

“That is why we will soon write to parents to inform them we will not be continuing to seek consent and share data.

"We will continue to work with WDH to support our communities in Wakefield, and where we believe we can offer joined up support to a specific family we will do so on a case by case basis.”

Mich Walsh, Director of Housing, at WDH, said: "We have been having further discussions with Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) regarding the concerns raised by the community and, following those discussions, a letter will be sent by OGAT to parents and carers to clarify the current position.”