Records and information management

Schools are responsible for the creation, management and disposal of records relating to all aspects of school administration. These records include school student files, student reports, Department confidential student files, school based personal staff files, financial records, building and facilities records, school council files, staff selection documents and correspondence.

Schools need to properly manage records in order to:

  • meet legislative responsibilities
  • ensure records are stored when needed and destroyed when permissible
  • meet administrative responsibilities to staff and students.

Schools that properly manage their records are able to store and retrieve valuable information when needed.

Management of school records

Storage of school records

Records that are not in current use (called inactive records) can be stored on school premises but please note the following:

  • The records must be safe from unauthorised access.
  • The records must be stored in an environment free from dangers such as water, excessive light, excessive heat, vermin and insects.
  • The records should be properly boxed and labelled and a list should be created so that records can be easily located when needed.

Life-spans of school records

All public records have life-spans that are determined by standards issued under the Public Records Act 1973. These range from ‘destroy immediately’ to ‘keep forever’. To find out how long a particular record needs to be kept refer to the relevant Retention and Disposal Authority (RDA).

Some school records can be destroyed under normal administrative practice (NAP). Such records include working papers, drafts, duplicate copies of records stored elsewhere and ephemeral records such as unsolicited ‘junk mail’. Records destroyed under NAP do not need to be recorded in the destruction register.

School records belong to and must be maintained by the State of Victoria and its agencies. The Department will oversee the disposal of closed school records.

Retention and disposal authorities relevant to schools

All school staff who manage records should become familiar with the two Retention and Disposal Authorities that are used to sentence school records.

  1. Schools General Retention & Disposal Authority (PROS 01/01) - This RDA covers records specific to schools such as, but not limited to, reports, attendance rolls, enrolment records and school council records.
  2. General Retention & Disposal Authority for Records of Common Administrative Functions (PROS 07/01) - This RDA covers records common to all public offices such as, but not limited to, financial records and personnel records.

Permanent school records

A small proportion of school records are permanent. This means they can not be destroyed and will, eventually, be transferred to the Public Record Office Victoria. Permanent school records must stay in the school until such time as transfers to the Public Record Office Victoria can be arranged. Transfers of permanent records to the Public Record Office Victoria are handled by the Department. Schools will be notified when a transfer is scheduled.

Public access to school records

People are allowed to access their own records directly from schools but are denied access to the records of other people.

For example:

  • Secondary schools are often approached by ex-students seeking their school reports (usually to join the armed forces). Schools should provide this information where possible.
  • Primary and secondary schools can be approached by those who wish to have proof of their enrolment for immigration or citizenship reasons. Schools should provide this information where possible.

NOTE: The Freedom of Information Unit can provide advice when a person’s records include information on or from other people.

In some circumstances ‘historical’ records such as Pupils Registers can be made available to researchers. Such access is granted at the Principal’s discretion but the following should be taken into account:

  • It is recommended that Pupils Registers covering the period of the last forty years not be made publicly available.
  • Some Pupils Registers are very fragile and should be handled with care.
  • Pupils Registers must not leave the school

School Reunions

Schools can be approached to support or can be the initiators of school reunions. This leads to concerns as to what records can be provided to school reunion organisers and attendees. A School Reunions Guide (docx - 316.95kb) informs schools and members of the public about what can be provided.

Notes on particular school records

Schools create, receive and manage records on matters such as administration, accountability, student management, curriculum, property and facilities, school heritage, finance and personnel. All such records need to be properly managed. Below are notes on some particular record types. It is not an exhaustive list and schools should refer to the relevant retention and disposal authorities for sentences on specific records.

Staff personal (personnel) files

Essential personal documentation about each staff member must be maintained in a personal file. Schools are responsible for the security and maintenance of personal files. These must be held in a secure environment with restricted access.

For a previously employed staff member, if re-employed, a personal file will already exist. This file must be retrieved rather than creating a new personal file.

On cessation of employment, a staff member’s personal file will be retained by the school where they were last employed for 50 years from date of cessation. The file may be reactivated if the staff member is re-employed prior to the appropriate destruction time.

If a previously employed staff member commences employment in a school, the employing school must retrieve the personal file from the school where that staff member last worked.

If a school closes, contact should be made with the regional office for policy advice about the management of personal files.

Freedom of Information and Privacy issues can impact on requests for access to these files and, especially, requests to remove or amend records contained in these files. For more information, see:

Student reports

Student reports are kept for varying time periods as below:

  • Prep to Year 8 reports - 6 years after student departures.
  • Year 9 to 12 reports (excluding final report) - 30 years after student departures.
  • Year 9 to 12 report (final report) - Permanent record. Must be kept in the school until a transfer to the PROV is arranged.

Sentences were decided on to meet the needs of staff, students and posterity. Many ex-students approach schools for copies of their reports to enable them to join the military. This was the prime reason behind keeping some of the reports for 30 years.

Asbestos-related records

Occasionally sentences in the official retention and disposal authorities are over-ruled and records are kept for longer periods. This is the case with ALL asbestos-related records. These records are to be kept indefinitely even if an RDA states that the record can be destroyed. Schools should become familiar with issues surrounding the Crimes (Document Destruction) Act 2006 that precludes the destruction of records that are known to be reasonably likely required in evidence. All asbestos-related records should be kept indefinitely. For more information on the implications of the Document Destruction Act, see: Advice 18, Crimes (Document Destruction) Act 2006: Implications for government recordkeeping

Expulsion records

All records relating to disciplinary action resulting in expulsion of a student must be destroyed within 1 year of expulsion of the student or when the student ceases to be of school age, whichever is the later.

Financial records

Most school financial records such as statements, invoices, receipts are kept for 7 years. The annual financial statement that is signed off by an auditor and usually presented to the school council is the only financial record that is permanent.

All Government schools in Victoria are public offices under the Public Records Act 1973 and are legally obliged to follow the rules developed by the Public Record Office Victoria. The Public Record Office Victoria issues standards that guide public offices on creation, management and retention/destruction of public records held by the public office.

Contact

For more information on archives and records management in schools contact archives.records@edumail.vic.gov.au

Further Information

For more information on records management in schools, see:

Legislation with implications for records management include:

  • Public Records Act 1973
  • Evidence Act 2008
  • Information Privacy Act 2000
  • Health Records Act 2001
  • Crimes Act 1958
  • Crimes (Document Destruction) Act 2006
  • Public Administration Act 2004
  • Freedom of Information Act 1982
  • Financial Management Act 1994
  • Accident Compensation (OHS) Act 1986
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1995
  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006