School ICT Policies Thread, DPA and Data Accuracy in School Administration; Recently I have "aquired" the job of providing some more database management for our school and moving SIMS from the ...
9th March 2009, 03:18 PM #1
DPA and Data Accuracy
Recently I have "aquired" the job of providing some more database management for our school and moving SIMS from the thing everyone hates because they have to write their reports in it to something usefull that actually provides people people with usefull info and in the long rum makes people's lives easier.
The first step is some data clensing.
Looking through our pupil data there are a number of students mostly Chinese though not all who have what I would describe as rubbish information. SIMS (for those with different DB's) has fields for First Name, Middle Name(s), Surname and prefered first name (I can also add in fields if I so wish). The childern that I have a problem with don't use their first name so the person entering the data has done thing's like put "F.F.John" as their first name and not used a middle name instead of putting their propper First name, Middle names (though they then use the prefered first name to add in John). I suspect that this is for some reason based on school reports.
Now from the data point of view this is rubbish. F.F.John is not the childs first name, and in most cases I cannot see how we can determine the child's leagal first name. I could perhaps just bully my waty though the issue and get it changed and done preoperly however I would like to have some for of backup. Does anyone where in the DPA it comments on the accuracy of data held. Are we on dodgy ground as it is or am I being overly sensitive?
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9th March 2009, 04:20 PM #2
Not sure I understand what's going on. Is this just with Chinese (or similar south east Asian names)? Normal practice as I understand it is that their names are "back to front" (so instead of "Steve Rochford" they do "Rochford Steve") and also they often have a Western name which they use as a given name. For example, with the name Wen Jiabao, "Wen" is the family name and Jiabao is the "first name" (probably better referred to as the given name). I don't think he uses a Western name but let's say that it's Jim.
I'm guessing that the data for him would be stored as "Wen" in Surname and "Jim" in preferred first name and "F.F. John" in firstname?
When reports etc are generated, I imagine that they're all done using the surname and preferred firstname fields? If this is the case then generated reports are going to be correct. If it's always "F.F. John" in the "wrong" records then essentially that is just being used as a placeholder - it would make more sense to put "not available" or similar but that's what it's standing for.
If I've understood all this then I don't think there's a problem from the DPA angle - you're not deliberately (or accidentally) storing wrong information; you're saying that for these people there isn't a name you want to use there. Provided that is true then I don't think there's a problem but I can't see why you wouldn't put the Chinese first name in there (assuming that you know it) - it will be useful for anything which needs the full name showing in the future.
9th March 2009, 05:24 PM #3
Perhaps it might help if I expaned the point slightly.
Say a student want's to use their middle name instead of their first.
The students full name is Frank Francis John <surname>. They want to be know as John, the person inputting the data list F.F.John as their first name and that the students have no middle names. From the point of view of the data this is inaccurate. They should be filling in Frank as the first name and Francis John as the middle names and dealing with the issues of what appear on the report using other fields. It also means that if we have to fill in any legal document for the child we have no record of their legal first name. To me this is a problem as the data is inaccurate and incomplete. I was just wondering if there was any bacup in the DPA or anything else about the legal requirements to have accurate data.
As I personally use my middle name rather than my first I appreciate the distinction between legal first name and what I happen to call myself.
9th March 2009, 05:34 PM #4
It says in the Data protection act the data must be accurate and upto date.
9th March 2009, 05:37 PM #5
This is what the preferred name fields are for in SIMS, so that you can have reports/letters etc using either their preffered names or their legal names.
As long as you put their actual legal names in the legal name fields, you can put whatever you need in the preffered names fields.
This is designed to meet DPA requirements, DCSF requirements for census returns etc and also make it usable in school so that you can have registers etc using their preffered name.
9th March 2009, 07:04 PM #6
Is it the person inputting the data or the broken CTF files imported from other schools?
9th March 2009, 07:24 PM #7
The Legal name field is there for a reason. This is what is used to match up with UPN for things like PlASC / CENSUS (as is date of birth) and I am surprised no-one from the LA has had a right go.
The other thing to consider is that this will then cock-up the exam entries and the certificates produced could be in the wrong names!
Data has to be accurate, as previously stated. If a family or child wish to make changes to what data is stored then that is why you have the handy data collection sheet which can be signed at the bottom to make sure everyone is happy.
Chasing paper trails ... but worth it to have clean data.
10th March 2009, 10:25 AM #8
Indipendent. You can "get away" with so much!
Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
Yes exams is a problem however there is a sepeate field for "Exam name" that can be thereed in SIMS and this is what will appear on the certificates. And to answer the other question the data is being inputted manually.
Part of the problem is that we lacked anyone who wanted to take owenership of the databse and so people have done what they felt was necessary to get the correct output as wanted by the "school" working in their own little part of the database. Also as the majority of the people using are not "Technical" then they don't necessarilly look at it from the same point of view as me.
Now I have to take over some measure of involvement I am looking at the data and trying to sort out these sort of issues. Form my experience looking at it simply as data it looks wrong. I was looking for the legal documentation to back me up when people throw up resistance, the "we have always done it this way whats the problem" attitude.
I did see the "Data must be accurate and up to date" line in the DPA but it did seem to be a summary of a larger point and was looking for the full explanation. I think I'll just use that as my "stick" and beat the relevant people over the head with it.
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