Wymondham College apologises over pupils' data breach

Wymondham College Wymondham College was named as one of Britain's best state schools by society magazine Tatler

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A school has apologised for a data breach in which personal information about students was sent to their teenage classmates.

Sixth-form pupils at Wymondham College, Norfolk, were mistakenly sent a link to a spreadsheet intended for teachers.

It included data on whether pupils had special educational needs, whether they were "looked-after" children and if they received free school meals.

The school has referred itself to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Start Quote

We're not talking about MoD laptops left on trains here ”

End Quote Melvyn Joffe Principal

The spreadsheet also contained data on pupils' ethnicity, whether or not they were on the "gifted and talented" register, their boarding status and a breakdown of their academic performance across all subjects.

It had been intended for year 13 tutors at the state boarding school which has more than 1,300 pupils and was named by society magazine Tatler as one of Britain's top state schools.

However, it was mistakenly sent to year 13 pupils instead.

In a letter to parents, the school said efforts were made to recall the email once the mistake was realised, but that some students had accessed the document.

All year 13 pupils, aged 17 and 18, were asked to sign a certificate confirming that if they did access the spreadsheet, they did not save it, forward it or keep a printed copy.

'Not MoD laptops'
BBC explorer and broadcaster Nick Crane Writer and broadcaster Nicholas Crane is among the school's former pupils

School principal Melvyn Roffe said the original email was sent to a maximum of 100 pupils and contained a link to a spreadsheet on the school's computer system.

It was sent out late at night, he said, and links to the document were disabled as soon as possible after the mistake was discovered.

He said the data never left the school's system but that it was unclear how many pupils had accessed it.

"It wasn't high-octane stuff. We're not talking about MoD laptops left on trains here - it's probably the electronic equivalent of leaving a mark book on a desk," he said.

"But we know what our responsibilities are and have made sure we are on the front foot. We're doing the right thing and alerting people to the possibility that some of their data may have been disclosed.

"We have apologised. Our record is extremely good and I like to think that the fact we reacted swiftly and properly is an indication of how seriously we take protecting data."

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office, which investigates data breaches, said: "I can confirm that we have been notified and we will be making enquiries."

Ex-pupils of Wymondham College include Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb, former Labour Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, and writer and broadcaster Nicholas Crane.

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