My son has dyspraxia. How can I ensure he’s supported in school?

Ask Brian: Sharing personal data on children has become more complex due to GDPR

The issue of communicating sensitive information concerning students with additional needs   is highly sensitive and logistically complex one. Photograph: iStock

The issue of communicating sensitive information concerning students with additional needs is highly sensitive and logistically complex one. Photograph: iStock

 

My son is in second year and has a diagnosis of dyspraxia. I met with the school principal prior to entry who reassured me my son would be supported in his learning by all teachers. So, I was shocked at a recent parent-teacher meeting to find two of his teachers who were not aware of his diagnosis. What rights does he have to ensure he is supported?

The issue of communicating sensitive information concerning students with specific disabilities between parents, school authorities, and the teachers who teach the child every day is highly sensitive and a logistically complex one.

Since the legislation derived from the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulation into EU law, the legal position relating to sharing personal data on any child has become more complex.

Even though you communicated all the relevant reports relating to your son to his new school prior to entry, the means by which that is transmitted to each teacher and other school personnel who interact with him daily must ensure that it is only accessible to those intended to receive it.

School authorities cannot simply generate fact sheets on children and distribute them widely among staff.

Given the highly dynamic nature of school day-to-day life, with hundreds of people moving around the building every 40 minutes from room to room, such sensitive documents could end up being left in inappropriate places. Putting such information in staff rooms on notice boards does not work either, as these rooms may be accessed by other persons outside of school time.

Sending such information electronically to teachers through the school’s IT system can be even more open to it been viewed inappropriately and would certainly come under scrutiny under GDPR.

Indefensible

At the same time, it is a failure of any school system when vital information fails to get to the relevant teachers, or that they fail to act on it. Without trying to defend the indefensible, your average teacher may have up to 400 students across a dozen class groups, seeing up to 270 of them daily.

While it is upsetting that two teachers missed out on the transmission of this vital information concerning your son, the flip side is that you probably met 10 other teachers at the parent teacher meeting day who had absorbed the information and acted on it.

Through your own initiative, the two teachers are now aware that your son has dyspraxia.

You might consider sending a general fact sheet, provided by the Dyspraxia Association of Ireland (dyspraxia.ie) on how best to support children with a diagnosis of dyspraxia in their learning in schools, without any reference to your son’s name, to each teacher to support them in teaching your child.

Email your queries to askbrian@irishtimes.com