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What Confidential Data Should Schools, Colleges and Universities Be Shredding?

Every academic year schools, colleges and universities generate mountains of paperwork. From student records to meeting minutes, the high turnover of people who pass through the system leaves a major paper trail, and much of that paperwork contains personal information. As well as personal details for admin purposes, this can also mean sensitive information such as curricular records, heath details, religious beliefs or DBS checks.

This leaves you with a headache if you’re in charge of data protection at your institution. How do you handle confidential data? How long do you need to keep it? How can you dispose of it and keep within the law? Educational records are covered by the Data Protection Act in the UK, which means that schools and other educational institutions are responsible under the law for managing and disposing of data securely. Your responsibility for personal data lasts as long as the data exists, so even very old records are covered by the act.

Datashredders’ commercial shredding services can help you manage the secure disposal of out-of-date paperwork, computer hardware and storage, but which data should you be covering in your data protection policy?

What should be shredded?

Student records

The main form of data that a school, college or university holds is likely to be student records, which will have to be kept for a certain amount of time after a student leaves the institution. Records are likely to contain personal details such as student names, addresses and dates of birth, as well as educational information.

After a certain time has passed, student records are no longer needed; but it can be difficult to judge when this time has passed. The easiest option may appear to be to keep records indefinitely, but there are some serious potential issues with this policy, not least that you may not have the space! Even though you no longer need or use records, it’s still your responsibility to make sure they’re held securely, which can become increasingly difficult the more records you have. You also have a responsibility as a data holder to give the people the data relates to access to it while you hold it, which may prove a challenge if your records go back years. So setting a timeframe for holding old records is a good idea.

Document shredding is the most secure way to dispose of old paperwork, but you’re not likely to win any friends by giving stretched academic or admin staff student records from 1996 to shred – plus the job needs to be managed securely. Luckily, Datashredders can take the job off your hands entirely, managing waste collection, shredding and recycling.

Staff records

As well as students, your school or college will also be storing records relating to staff and past recruitment. Some of these records may still be relevant if staff are current or left within the last few years, but older records should be disposed of securely to avoid security concerns.

Financial and admin records

A school, college or university’s financial records are another area of data that needs careful consideration. You may decide older records should be destroyed, or if you choose to keep records indefinitely you may find that transferring data to cloud storage is an option. Either way, paper records will need to be shredded securely.

Computer hardware

Schools, colleges and universities tend to accumulate old technical equipment at a high rate. Defunct computers take up a lot of room, but you can’t just throw them out; careful consideration needs to be given to disposing of them. Even broken or unused hard drives, computer towers or laptops may still contain accessible sensitive information, so dumping them with normal waste is not an option. A commercial shredding service can shred computer equipment along with paper, making it impossible for data to be retrieved.

Digital storage
As well as computer hardware, you may have old data storage devices that need to be securely destroyed. It’s time to dig out all those old floppy discs and drives out of the back of the office cupboard and let a data shredding company deal with them. The latest shredding technology can handle storage devices like this as easily as paper, shredding them to tiny pieces. Often with older storage where labelling is insufficient and the equipment required to read the disc or drive is gone, it’s impossible to tell what it contains, but an institution can’t risk leaking sensitive information, so even mystery storage devices should be shredded.

CCTV recordings

There is no official limit to how long you can store CCTV footage, and you may want to retain it for a certain amount of time in case it’s needed, but you should set an official time limit on storing footage. If footage is stored on tapes or discs, these should be shredded professionally so they can’t be accessed.

How Datashredders’ commercial shredding services can help

That’s a whole lot to shred! For a large institution, the most efficient method of handling data shredding is to get in touch with a commercial shredding service such as Datashredders. We’ll provide secure bins for waste material, collect the waste, shred it efficiently and recycle it, leaving you to spend time on your core academic work.

To take advantage of our shredding services, just call 0808 274 8190, use the contact form on our contact us page or send an email to info@datashredders.co.uk. We’ll be happy to provide a free, no-obligation quote.