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CONTRIBUTORS Counting down to GDPR


This month, regular Education Today contributor GRAHAM COOPER looks ahead to the introduction of GDPR in May this year and assesses what it could mean for schools.


Another new year is upon us, and there’s bound to be plenty on the education calendar to keep us all on our toes, but one very important date to make a note of is 25th May 2018, when the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force.


The schools I talk to are gearing up for the changes in legislation, and from what I can see, those schools which already address the current Data Protection Act have little to worry about.


However, there are a few areas which may call for a fresh approach in readiness for GDPR.


Ready to respond


Take subject access requests (SARs) for instance – one of the areas being tightened up under GDPR. Your pupils and their parents have the right to make a SAR to see the personal information you hold about them, and you will have to provide this data, free of charge.


Speedy access to data


These are just the sort of situations where a parent might request to see all the data stored on their child’s behaviour or attendance. However, this data may need to be gathered from several different sources, which could be a headache for schools. It would be much easier for a school to respond to a SAR if all the pupil data can be accessed from one place.


Present and correct


But how can you be sure that the data you hold on your pupils is accurate – which is another significant requirement of GDPR?


Family situations change throughout the year, as parents move house, switch jobs or form new relationships. Traditionally, schools send out a paper- based data collection sheet at the beginning of the academic year, but the details it contains may be inaccurate by the time the office staff key it into the system.


And when entering data from handwritten forms, even the most diligent administrator can fall foul of spelling errors and typos.


Easy updates


The most effective way to get accurate contact details into your system is to allow parents to enter the data themselves. A tool such as the SIMS Parent app enables parents to log on and see their existing core data and make change requests as and when they need to, greatly reducing the chance of a school holding an old mobile number, or the email address from a parent’s previous job.


And because we know that GDPR is going to be a challenge for schools, we’re offering an isolated element of the app – SIMS Parent Lite – as part of the SIMS annual entitlement fee, incurring no additional cost to schools who hold a core SIMS licence.


A busy parent may not always remember to update their details, but schools can send out regular reminders to parents via the app, and they can also ask for parents’ consent to use the data for specific activities, as required by GDPR.


With effective home/school communication and a simpler mechanism for pulling together data, schools will have the building blocks for good data practice in time for GDPR next spring.


To find out more about SIMS Parent Lite, visit https://www.capita- sims.co.uk/products-and-services/sims-parent-lite


18 www.education-today.co.uk Practical plants!


Continuing her series on science on a


shoestring, this month regular Education Today contributor KIRSTY BERTENSHAW takes a look at the science of plants.


Plants can seem like a repetitive and boring topic area with very little practical work for pupils, and waiting times for experiments to show results. Here are a few ways to make the topic more interesting and more active for pupils!


Cress is the easiest plant to use to investigate factors affecting growth or limiting factors, as it is cheap and readily available. A pack of cress can be cut into four sections to stretch it even further in the classroom and ensure a fair test.


To investigate the effect of sunlight on a plant, take one quarter of the cress and place in a dark room, cupboard, or in a box to prevent sunlight from reaching the plant. Remember to water it though, and ensure airflow over the plant so it can access carbon dioxide. Leave for a week and compare with the control quarter. With another quarter, place it in a sealed bag or clear box in the light, ensuring it has enough water. This will limit the amount of carbon dioxide the plant has access to. Leave it for a week and compare with the control quarter.


With the third quarter, place the cress in the light with air flow, but do not water it for a week. Observe the plant regularly to see the changes taking place.


The final quarter of the cress is the control plant, needing light, air flow and regular watering. The height, colouring and direction of growth of this cress section can then be compared to see what effect limiting the other factors had. Because the cress quarters all came from the same pack, pupils can be sure it was the variables they controlled that affected the plants.


Demonstrate the absorption of water through the xylem in plants by placing celery in water dyed with red, blue or black food colouring. The food colouring will move up the xylem overnight, and can be examined by slicing the celery vertically or horizontally to reveal the vascular bundles easily identified by the food colouring they absorbed. More able pupils can even examine slices using microscopes. For a younger group use white or pink carnations, and place them in water dyed with blue or black food colouring. It is even possible, should the stem be thick enough, to carefully slit the stem upwards for a few centimetres, placing one part in a test tube of blue dye, and one part in the black dye. This can result in half of the flower showing one of the dyes and the other half showing the other dye! Remember to freshly trim the stem to ensure the best absorption.


Plant anatomy is usually taught with a diagram that pupils can label, but is more memorable if done practically. Cut flowers can be purchased very cheaply from supermarkets on a Sunday, just before closing time, especially if the flowers are completely open. Choose flowers with an obvious stigma and visible stamen to make the identification of parts easier. Pupils then can use safety scissors, providing they are washed well afterwards, or even their fingers to separate the parts of plants. Take care with lilies that have been open for a while as the anther starts to look fluffy, and the pollen will come off and stain fingers and clothes. All pupils should wash their hands thoroughly afterwards and before consuming food.


January 2018


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