The need for records management
Good records management is essential for business efficiency, and to meet the requirements of other legislation. For example, the Data Protection Act lays down strict rules on how information about living individuals should be managed: personal data must be kept secure and up-to-date, and must not be retained for longer than is required by the purpose for which the data were gathered. A School's effectiveness will be impeded and operating costs increased if they are unable to find vital information, if information is duplicated unnecessarily, or if records are retained in filing cabinets and storage areas beyond their useful life span.
The link between information rights and information management is recognised by the legislation. The government has issued a Records Management Section 46 Code of Practice under the Freedom of Information Act stipulating the policies, procedures and systems which schools are expected to have in place to manage their records in accordance with FoI. Although it is not legally binding, we are expected to abide by the Code. If a school conspicuously fails to do so, the Information Commissioner can investigate its practices and can issue a Practice Recommendation specifying what it should do to come up to the standard.
Things to consider when creating records
Remember, above all, that:
The information could be requested under the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations. If no valid limit or exemption applies, it will have to be released.
If the information relates to an individual, that person may gain access to it under the Data Protection Act.
Details could be released many years later, at a time when you won't be available to explain why things were done the way they were.
Release of information which shows the School's employees making inappropriate comments will be embarrassing, and could result in legal action.
Record creation needs to be carried out responsibly, and with a view to the possibility that the information may eventually pass into the public domain.
View the Information and Records Management Society website and see the toolkit that they have produced for schools - of particular interest will be the records retention guidelines and guidance on what to do with records when a school closes: RM Toolkit for Schools - Information and Records Management ...
The Information Governance Team can provide advice and assistance on issues within this document. They can be contacted on 01245 436235