Asking to see your child's school record

What steps you can take to access their school record

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We recommend that parents get a copy of their child's school record if bullying is continuing despite complaints. Many state school parents find that they are denied access for a variety of reasons, which is unlawful. Sometimes requests for a copy of the record are ignored or parents are refused access, sometimes schools say that:

  • The record is private
  • The head said a parent could only view certain parts of the record in his presence
  • The head said he'd never allowed any parent to see a record and he wasn't going to start now

Your child's school file is a valuable way of finding out what has been going on in class. Ideally it should contain copies of reports, which have already been sent home, results of classroom tests, which are carried out from time-to-time in school life, and copies of any complaints parents have made together with action taken.

However, record keeping varies greatly from school to school. Some schools simply keep copies of test results and reports while others include far more information. The only type of bullying schools must record is racist bullying. There is no requirement for them to record any form of verbal bullying or physical bullying.

Your right to a copy of your child’s school record

The Department of Education (DFE) makes it clear that state school parents have a right to a copy of their child's school record if they put a request in writing to see it and on payment of photocopying costs. It is illegal for parents to be told that there are conditions to meet before they get a copy of the record. The school cannot insist that parents attend a meeting to receive it. If the school refuses to allow you to have a copy of the file, you can print out information about your rights from the Information Commisioner's Office website and send it to the school. The record must be supplied within 15 days, not including weekends and holidays. If the record is inaccurate it must be amended by removing or correcting the inaccurate part. If the school disagrees, the original letter from the parents must be put onto the file and treated as part of the record. In certain circumstances a pupil or his parents can appeal to a court under the Data Protection Act 1998 to have educational records destroyed or amended. If a child transfers to another school, including an independent school or college, their record must be automatically transferred. However, there are some records which parents are not allowed to see. These include:

  • a teacher's record kept solely for the teacher's personal use
  • when the holder believes that disclosure would be likely to cause serious harm to the physical, mental or emotional health of the pupil in question, or any other person
  • when the records would disclose information about another pupil
  • where the holder believes the record is relevant to whether the pupil is, or has been, a victim of child abuse or many be at risk of it

If your child attends an academy, free school or an independent school then there is no equivalent legal right to access your child's school record. This will be up to the school to make the decision to allow you access. 

Bullying UK's advice is that after parents receive a copy of the file they should write to the head, asking for confirmation that the full content of the record has been sent, and if not, for a list of all documents which have been withheld, and the reason why. The most common reason for documents not being disclosed is because they name another pupil. It's in the school's interests to explain to parents if any records are missing because parents may get the wrong impression that no action has been taken over bullying when that is not the case.

Time-consuming though it is, schools need to keep records of bullying complaints and their outcome, otherwise they cannot prove they took the matter seriously should parents wish to take the matter further. Simply writing to parents and saying the school is satisfied it did everything possible to resolve bullying is no defence to a legal action if there is nothing in the paperwork to back up the school's claim.

We hope that this information has helped you get a good idea of what steps you can take to obtain a copy of your child’s school record.


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