The One About The Right to be Remembered

I’m going to utter 4 letters that are currently striking fear into the minds of Headteachers everywhere. No, not SATs. GDPR.

There have been many posts on social media with GDPR myths – no names on displayed work, no named trays in classrooms, no named peg labels, no birthday displays…. It’s not these aspects of GDPR that concern me. It’s the idea that everyone has a right to be forgotten.

Let me explain our context. We are a very small village school. We have served our community since the turn of the 20th century. We have seen generations of the same family step through our doors as children, and then parents, and in a few cases, then as grandparents. We are part of the fabric of our community, and they are our history. We have an archive of photographs, dating back to the 1920s. Picture a group of children (girls in smocks and boys in short trousers) seated in front of the school building, with a stern headmaster beside them. they are holding a board showing the year. Underneath, the photograph, handwritten in black ink, are the names of each and every child, surname first and then initial. We see surnames on those photographs that we still see on our registers today! A special little corner of my classroom cupboard houses some Ladybird books from the 1960s, with inlay cards showing who has borrowed each book. Again, names from those cards are familiar to our school today.

While I understand that protecting data and preventing data losses are important, especially given the massive leaks that have been publicised in recent years, and the vast amount of data floating around in “the cloud”, I worry for the future. For the generations who follow us, who will lose their link to their past. Those children who will step through our doors in sixty years from now, and will have no way to know if their families were once part of the same little village school.

Of all the data losses, that is the one that worries me most of all. When our names, date of birth and photos have been deleted, and the paperwork shredded, our heritage and our “back story” is lost too. GDPR enshrines the “right to be forgotten”, but I want my class to have the right to be remembered.

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