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School Data Breach Compensation Claims Guide – How Much Compensation Can I Claim? – Amounts For School Data Breach

By Daniel Archer. Last Updated 24th June 2022. Welcome to our guide to school data breach claims with recent school data breach examples. Schools and educational institutions handle a large amount of personal data. Some of this data may relate to staff and some to students, past and present. Some of this information is sensitive, especially when it relates to medical information, for example.

No matter how sensitive the personal data a school collects, stores and processes, it must abide by data protection law. Unfortunately, however, things can go wrong, and if you or your child has fallen victim to a school data breach, you could be eligible to claim compensation. We have created this guide to help you understand how to go about making a data breach compensation claim against a school, and how we could provide legal assistance to you.

School data breach claims guide

School data breach claims guide

In the sections below, we give some examples of data breaches in schools and explain what happens if a school breaches GDPR. We also take a look at when you should report a breach to the school’s data protection officer (DPO) and what kind of data breach compensation you could be eligible to claim.

Further to this, we offer insight into how a data breach lawyer from Legal Expert could help you. If you have any questions about a personal data breach claim, or you’re ready to get started and would like a lawyer to help you, please call our team on 0800 073 8804. We will be happy to help you and to advise you on how to claim. We could even check your eligibility to claim, free of charge.

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A Guide To School Data Breach Compensation Claims

Whether you’re a parent whose child has been the victim of a school data breach or your personal data has been breached as an employee of a school, you may be wondering if you could claim data breach compensation. After all, a breach of your or your child’s data could have a number of unwelcome consequences.

This guide aims to inform you of your rights when it comes to data protection breaches in schools and will give you some insight into claiming the compensation you deserve.

The following sections offer a wealth of information on how a breach of the Data Protection Act  2018 in schools could happen, and how it could lead to a claim. We look at the effects such a breach could have on the person whose data has been breached and explain how the law allows for those affected to claim compensation.

In addition, we offer some insight into what security measures schools could put in place to protect sensitive personal data and explain the risks they face.

Remember, if you have any questions, we’re on hand to help. Simply call us on the number at the top of this page to find out more.

What Are Data Protection Breaches In Schools?

As part of their educational provision, schools need to collect, process and store personal information. As data controllers, they are legally required to protect the personal data they process, whether this relates to a student or a staff member. They have legal obligations to do so under the Data Protection Act 2018, which enacts into UK law the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But what is personal data? Let us explain.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) defines personal data as information that could be used to identify a person, either on its own or combined with other information. Examples of personal data schools could collect and process could include:

  • Student names, contact details, addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers
  • Staff names, contact details, addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers

Sensitive Personal Data

Some information could be considered more sensitive than other data and should be afforded a higher level of protection. Sensitive data could include:

  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Political opinion
  • Medical information
  • Religious belief information

What Is A Data Breach?

The ICO defines a data breach as a security incident that affects the availability, integrity or confidentiality of personal data. It could involve data being subject to:

  • Unauthorised/ unlawful access or destruction
  • Loss of personal data or loss of availability of data
  • The disclosure, transmission or alteration of personal data without permission
  • Data theft

What Should A Data Breach Policy For Schools Consider?

There are several ways in which a school data breach could happen. Schools could be at risk of cyberattacks such as hacks, so they should ensure they have robust computer security and network security measures in place to protect against such threats.

However, not all data breaches involve cybersecurity issues. A school data breach policy should also consider how to prevent breaches of physical data held by the school. This could include data in filing cabinets, for example. They should ensure there is no chance of an unauthorised person accessing the data held in filing cabinets for example, by keeping them locked.

Data Protection And GDPR Requirements For Schools

We mentioned that schools have legal responsibilities to protect personal information under GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. The UK Government has put together a toolkit for schools to use when putting in place policies and procedures to ensure GDPR compliance.

It involves raising awareness of data protection among all members of staff and ensuring those that process personal data are educated on how to do so in accordance with GDPR. It also offers guidance for school leaders and those involved with data management in creating a secure data security system that reduces the risk of human error and other incidents leading to data breaches.

What Are The Principles Of GDPR?

The principles of GDPR that schools must abide by include:

  • Accountability
  • Accuracy
  • Data minimisation
  • Integrity and confidentiality (security)
  • Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Storage limitation

These principles should be at the forefront of any organisation that processes personal data. A failure to adhere to these 7 principles of GDPR, leading to a breach of personal data, could result in a school facing fines.

Not only this, but it could lead to victims of data breaches claiming compensation for identity theft, financial loss, privacy violation, reputational damage and psychological harm.

What Is An Example Of A School Data Breach?

There are several ways in which a school data breach could happen. A breach could be the result of negligence, human error or malicious behaviour. Let’s look at some examples.

Examples of Data Breaches in Schools

As part of providing examples of data protection breaches, it’s important to understand under what instances you would be able to claim. The reason you may be able to claim compensation for a data breach is if the school’s wrongful conduct caused the breach of your personal data and resulted in you experiencing financial damage and/ or psychological harm..

For example, if a hacker stole information about pupils from the school’s database, you would only be able to claim for your data being breached if the school didn’t do everything it reasonably could have done to prevent the breach. This would include, for instance, having up-to-date cybersecurity.

Other examples of data breaches in schools include:

  • A teacher or secretary providing your personal information over the phone to someone who is not authorised.
  • Sending a letter containing your personal details to the wrong address when they have the correct one on file.
  • Exposing sensitive medical information about a child to other students in the school.
  • An unauthorised member of staff accessing sensitive payroll information due to a filing cabinet being unlocked.

If you would like to know more examples of data protection breaches, or would like to see if you can claim, please contact us for free legal advice. An advisor can also help you understand how much compensation you could get for a data breach.

If you’re concerned that you may have been the victim of a school data breach and you’re wondering, “how long do I have to report a data breach?”, please read on.

Which Schools Have Been Impacted By Data Breaches?

This section looks at recent potential school data breach examples that were reported in the media.

One case from January 2022 refers to a fake email being sent out to dozens of parents, pretending to be a sender from Whitby High School in Ellesmere Port.

According to reports, some emails included a link they were asked to follow, and one parent was sent an email with information relating to an email conversation they had had in 2020. Another parent discovered the sender was actually from the USA.

Source: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/parents-warned-after-data-breach-22865428

Another school data breach case from this year included the private and sensitive information of year 11 students from Greensward Academy in Hockley, including school meal status, addresses, deprivation status and special education needs, being made available to year 11 pupils and their parents via Google Classroom.

The information was available for 5 days, causing widespread distress to both parents and pupils. According to the education support manager at the school, the incident was immediately reported and staff were given training and guidance to ensure it does not happen again.

Source: https://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/19877146.hockley-data-breach-greensward-academy/

What Happens If A School Breaches GDPR?

A school should have robust procedures to act when data breaches occur. Under GDPR, any breach of personal data that affects the freedoms and rights of individuals should be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This means that any breach that could risk harm to an individual in any of the following ways should be reported:

  • Discrimination, including harassment
  • Identity theft or fraud
  • Financial loss
  • Reputational damage
  • Loss of confidentiality of personal data under protection by professional secrecy
  • They must also ensure that they report any data breaches where sensitive personal information is compromised.

Schools must also inform individuals whose data has been breached about the incident.

How Long Does A School Have To Decide If A Data Breach Needs To Be Referred To The ICO?

Schools must disclose data breaches that cause risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals to the ICO. If a data breach doesn’t risk the rights or freedoms of individuals, schools should still record the breach in their records.

How long does a school have to report a data breach?

A school should report a data breach that threatens the rights and freedoms of the subject to the ICO within 72 hours of its discovery.

If there is a delay in reporting a breach to the ICO beyond 72 hours, there must be a reasonable excuse for this delay.

The data breach notification must include:

  • Categories of data and the number of people affected
  • Approximate numbers of records and categories affected
  • Details of the data protection officer
  • Information regarding the potential consequences of the breach
  • Description of measures taken or planned to rectify the breach and mitigate the effects

Should I Report A School To The Information Commissioner?

If you or your child has been the victim of a privacy breach by a school, you should, according to ICO advice, attempt to take it up with the school first. You should inform them of the breach, how it has affected you and ask them to launch an investigation. It would be wise to put a timescale on how quickly you would like them to respond. If the school does not respond satisfactorily or at all, you could raise your concerns with the ICO.

You should not leave it too long to inform the ICO of a breach if you would like them to investigate. Undue delays in reporting a breach may mean they do not investigate it.

Whether you’re considering reporting a school data breach to the ICO or not, if 3 months have gone by without meaningful contact from the school about the breach, you could seek legal advice. We could provide you with advice and support. In addition, we could provide you with a data breach solicitor to assist with your claim. All you need to do is call us.

How To Sue For Data Protection Breaches In Schools

You don’t necessarily need to use a data breach lawyer when claiming compensation. You could go it alone, reporting the breach to the school and asking for compensation. However, putting together the legal paperwork could be complicated. In addition, you might not know how much compensation to ask for, and what evidence would be appropriate to prove your claim.

This is where a data breach solicitor could help. Not only could they take on all the legal paperwork with proving a claim and help you through the data breach claims process, but they could ensure you don’t miss out on any compensation you are eligible for. As we describe in the next section, there are several damages you could claim for.

What Compensation Could You Be Awarded For A School Data Breach?

When awarding compensation for a school data breach, courts and lawyers would look at how the breach has affected the claimant. According to GDPR, those who suffer financial or non-financial damage could claim compensation. But what does this mean?

Material Damages

These could include financial losses and costs caused by the breach. You would usually evidence these via documentation such as bank statements, credit card bills and the like.

Non-Material Damages

You could also claim non-material damages if you’ve suffered harm in a way that is not financial. Non-material damages could be payable if you’ve experienced psychological harm because of a school data breach.

The reason this could be possible is that a legal precedent was set in Vidal-Hall and others v Google Inc [2015]  where the Court of Appeal discussed compensation for psychiatric injury caused by breaches of data. He said such awards should be considered, and the value of such claims should be determined with reference to personal injury law.

Therefore, you could consider claiming for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and stress if you’ve suffered in these ways due to a breach of your data.

What Is The Average Compensation For A Breach Of The Data Protection Act?

As we have already looked at examples of data breaches in schools, this section focuses on how much you compensation you may receive should a school data breach occur due to negligence.

The figures in the table have been taken from the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG), which were last updated in 2022. Although the JCG is used more traditionally in personal injury law, it is now also used in data breach claims as the result of the ruling made in the case of Gulati & Others Vs. MGN Ltd. in 2015, where they decided that psychological damage should now be valued the same in both data breach and personal injury claims.

There was another key data breach case in 2015 (Google Vs. Vidal-Hall). Due to this case, it became possible to claim for psychological harm without also claiming for financial losses. A breach of data protection in schools can lead to an impact on the mental health of students, staff, and parents/guardians, which is when a claim could potentially be made.

Legal professionals calculate how much you should receive for any psychological harm by consulting resources such as the JCG. The figures within have been based on court cases that have taken place in the past.

Name of InjurySeverityGuideline Bracket for Compensation
General Psychological injuryLess severe£1,540 to £5,860
PTSD/Post-traumatic stress disordersLess severe£3,950 to £8,180
General Psychological injuryModerate£5,860 to £19,070
PTSD/Post-traumatic stress disordersModerate£8,180 to £23,150
General Psychological injuryModerately severe£19,070 to £54,830
PTSD/Post-traumatic stress disordersModerately severe£23,150 to £59,860
General Psychological injurySevere£54,830 to £115,730
PTSD/Post-traumatic stress disordersSevere£59,860 to £100,670

You will only gain a rough idea as to what you could earn based on the figures above. Get in touch if you’d like a bespoke valuation of your claim.

No Win No Fee School Data Breach Compensation Claims

Here at Legal Expert, we know legal fees might be a pressing concern when deciding whether to get a data breach solicitor to help with your claim. With No Win No Fee claims, you could use the services of a legal professional without paying them until your compensation is received. You would only pay them a small percentage, known as a success fee, if they obtain a compensation payout for you.

How Does The Process Work?

In general terms, the process of claiming on a No Win No Fee basis would work as follows:

  • You’d sign a No Win No Fee Agreement prior to your lawyer starting work on your claim. This agreement would specify a small success fee that the lawyer would deduct from your payout if your claim is successful. There is a legal cap on the fee.
  • Your lawyer, on receiving the signed agreement, would work on your claim and negotiate a payout for you. When it comes through, they’d deduct the fee and the balance would be for your benefit.
  • If there was no compensation payout, you would not pay the success fee to your lawyer. Nor would you cover your lawyer’s costs.

For more detail on how such claims work, you could call our team if you have any questions on making a No Win No Fee claim.

Start Your School Data Breach Claim

Whether you’d like us to offer you a free eligibility check on your case, or you’re ready to talk to a data breach solicitor about your claim, we could help. Our expert advisors can answer your questions and check your eligibility to claim. We could then provide you with a No Win No Fee data breach lawyer who could help you fight for the maximum payout for your claim. To get in touch about a school data breach, all you need to do is:

Extra Resources On Education Data Protection Breaches

In this section of our guide to school data breach claims, we’ve included some extra resources you may find useful.

Data Breach Claim Examples – The ICO has produced some guidance on how to make a data breach claim here, along with giving you examples of what could happen during the process.

School Data Breach Guidance – Unison has produced advice for schools and teachers about data protection. You can find their guide here.

Photographs In Schools – Here, you can find ICO guidance on taking photos in school when it comes to data protection.

Loss Of Personal Data – Can I Make A Claim? – You can learn more about making a claim for data loss here.

GDPR Breach Psychological Injury Claims – This guide offers further insight into claiming for psychological injury.

Data Breached As An Employee?– You can learn about claiming against your employer for a data breach here.

Other Useful Compensation Guides

Cyber Security Trends And Statistics

According to the ICO’s Q3 2021/2022 report, during this period:

  • There were 388 data security incidents in the childcare and education sector
  • 311 of these were non-cyber security incidents and relate to incidents such as e-mailing data to the wrong recipient, loss/theft of paperwork, or paperwork left in an insecure location, for example.
  • 77 incidents related to cybersecurity, such as hacking, malware, and phishing scams.

If we look at a further breakdown of the numbers, we can see that 78 non-cyber security incidents in the education sector were caused by data being emailed to the wrong person and 29 were due to unauthorised access. 37 cyber security incidents were caused by phishing and 16 were caused by ransomware.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Sue a School for a Data Breach?

If you can prove that you suffered material and/or non-material damage due to the data breach and that the school was liable, you could potentially claim compensation for a school data breach.

I Have Contacted The ICO, Could I Still Make A Claim?

Yes, if three months have passed since there has been meaningful contact with the school. Our team would be happy to talk to you about your claim.

Is There A Time Limit For Making A Data Breach Claim?

The time limit for making a school data breach claim can differ depending on who the claim is made against. If you are claiming against a public body, the time limit is 1 year from the date of the incident. If you are claiming against a non-public body, the time limit is 6 years.

If you’re unsure as to how long you would have to file your claim, please don’t hesitate to call us.

What is a data breach in a school?

This is any situation where personal information relating to a school is stolen or revealed to people without authorisation.

How long does a school have to report a data breach?

The maximum time limit to report a breach after becoming aware of it is 72 hours.

What is the biggest cause of data breaches in schools?

Ransomware tends to be the most frequent cause of school data breaches.

How do you respond to a data breach?

You should remain calm, put a response plan out, contact your customers and call your security experts.

How long does a school have to decide if a data breach needs to be referred to the ICO?

They need to make the decision ASAP due to the three-day time limit to report it.

What is the largest data breach in history?

This was the Yahoo data breach of August 2013, with 3 billion accounts suffering a compromise.

Thank you for reading our guide to school data breach claims. Please get in touch if you’ve suffered from a school data breach.

Guide by Jeffries

Edited by Billing

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