September 5, 2018

Results day is over, but what was the examiner thinking?

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If you’ve just received your GCSE or A Level results, you might be wondering how you have been marked and why you received the results you did. You might even be considering appealing against the marks you have been given. If that is the case then you need to be aware of the rights you have under the new data protection legislation.

What information can I request?

The GDPR gives you, as an individual, the right to see the information an organisation holds about you. If you have just received your exam results, although you are not able to request copies of your answers, you are entitled to request certain information about your performance, including:

  • the mark you received;
  • any comments that may have been written by the examiner; and
  • the minutes of any examination appeals panels.

How to request information held regarding your exam results

In order to access that information, you will need to contact the organisation that holds it directly. Your school should be able to provide you with the contact details – make sure you keep copies of everything you send and note the date you send and receive any correspondence.

If your results have already been published, you must receive a response within one month of your request. If you make the request before the publication of results, you must receive a response either within 5 months of the date of the request or within 40 days from the date of publication of the result (whichever is earlier).

Alternatively, if you want to request official information about your school (for example, policies and procedures), then the route to follow is slightly different and you will need to make such a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Further information about these types of requests can be found here.

Are schools allowed to publish your results?

In short, yes. In fact, the publication of exam results is a routine and accepted practice and the GDPR does not change this.

However, under the GDPR, schools do have to advise students, parents and guardians as early as possible if they intend to publicise exam results. Schools also need to explain how the results will be published, for example, whether they will be in alphabetical or grade order. The advice of the Information Commissioner’s Office is that schools should repeat this information regularly, such as at the start of each academic year or examination term.

Although consent is not required from students, parents or guardians, in order for a school to be able to publish results (because a school has a legitimate reason for publication), the legislation says that schools must act fairly when publishing exam results. If you are concerned about the publication of your results, you do have the right to object and raise those concerns with your school. The school must seriously consider those concerns before it takes the decision to publish your results and would need to have a good reason to reject your objection.

Can you appeal the examiner’s decision?

Although the GDPR gives you the right of access to the information referred to above, it does not give you the right to challenge the decision made by the examiner.

In order to appeal an exam result, you will need to follow the examination board’s procedure and you will be able to find the necessary details by contacting your school.

Our GDPR team have the expertise to assist you in all matters relating to data protection, from the rights you have to access, amend or erase your data, to the options available to you when someone publishes something about you online.

If you are a school, college or university and have concerns over the control and processing of your students’ data, including exam results, we can also provide you with commercial and pragmatic advice in order to assist you in complying with your obligations under the new data protection legislation.


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