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How to Foster the Right Data Protection Culture

When it comes to data compliance, does your school have a ‘solve the issue at hand’ culture or does it look to foster continual improvement?

Working in partnership with Cantium, a sister company within Commercial Services Group and specialists in managed IT services for the public sector, we’ve been supporting schools and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) to ensure they are data protection compliant as they move forward with their digital transformation journeys.

The thread that unites success

Some schools will have staff members with a technical or even a compliance background, whereas others will find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The one thread that unites them in their success, is having a culture of continual improvement.

When a school places its focus on enhancing its processes and overall performance, and encourages ongoing reflection, learning, and adaptation, they foster a culture of continual improvement. We see this when schools view data protection as vitally important and have robust practices in place that support it.

Factors such as workload, time and budgetary restraints often prevent schools from adopting this culture and often keep them stuck in the ‘solve the issue at hand’ mindset. Often in busy environments we see people working very quickly, feeling the need to swiftly move on to the next task, but we’ve also seen how costly mistakes made in these moments can be.

Back to basics to break down barriers

Given the volume (and sensitivity) of the data and the speed in which schools are expected to work, we can completely empathise. We have found that the best way to break down these barriers to help make the cultural shift, while balancing workload, is to bring data protection back to basics.

Learning from mistakes – If your school or MAT has fallen victim to a data breach, take the time to evaluate what happened. Identify exactly where mistakes were made, then list the actions you are now going to put into place to prevent it from happening again.

Then focus on prevention – Display information around the school on the importance of data protection. Physical reminders like posters and screensavers can help prompt people to check their emails before sending, and to think before they click – over time, this really does help to change culture. Use newsletters, workshops and other channels to communicate with your school community about the importance of data protection, and to keep everyone informed about the policies and practices in place.
Support new starters – The best time to get staff engaged in data protection is when they join your school. Making clear that data protection is an important point on your agenda will help greatly when promoting a culture of continual improvement.

Offer all staff ongoing support – Refresher training must be offered at timely intervals. Do not give people excuses to avoid data protection education, support them and enable them to learn. Your Data Protection Officer (DPO) will also oversee compliance with data protection laws and can serve as a point of contact for any data protection concerns. Cultural change is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. By putting the measures above into action, schools can create a culture where data protection and privacy are always prioritised to foster a safe and secure environment for students and staff.

This article, originally published by Cantium, was written by Adam Halsey, External DPO (Data Protection Officer) for Schools, and Stacy Williams, Risk and Compliance Officer at Invicta Law. Adam and Stacy fulfil the Data Protection Officer role for Cantium schools as part of the Data Protection Officer Service (DPOaaS).

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