Staff and student confidentiality

Teachers and lecturers are not legally obliged to inform parents or guardians automatically of confidential disclosures by students, such as those concerning their emotional lives.

In accordance with the 'Gillick' judgement and the principles of the 1989 Children Act, teachers and lecturers are entitled to make reasonable professional judgements on this issue - recognising that young people are entitled to progressively more control over matters affecting them as they mature.

You must exercise your own judgment about whether disclosing a secret to senior staff, parents or police is in the child's best interests.

School policies

Schools and colleges should have a policy on confidentiality. If the matter is highly sensitive, it is appropriate for you to discuss the confidential information with a senior colleague and if you are called upon by your headteacher to reveal a disclosure, you are professionally bound to do so.

Child protection

You must also always pass on information about allegations of child abuse to the person designated under child protection procedures.

If the disclosure relates to a child protection issue, then you have a specific obligation to report it. Remember to inform the student concerned if you decide that you have to pass on her/his confidential disclosure to another person.

Student confidentiality

At all times, pupils must be clear whether their confidentiality will be respected. Ideally, the position should be explained before any disclosures are made. However, if you consider that information already given must be passed on, this must be made plain to the pupil.

Advice on contraception

You can give information on contraception to individual pupils under 16 who request it, even if their parents have withdrawn them from sex education lessons. However, you should not give advice, for example, on which method to use.

You should refer pupils to the appropriate health professional or clinic, and be guided by the sex education policy at your school/college. If in doubt, ask your headteacher/principal.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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