Law, ICT and Sixth Form Colleges

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Table of Contents

1.      What’s in this Guidance

2.      Benefits of Legal Compliance

3.      Key Legal Areas

4.      Copyright Law

5.      Data Protection Law

6.      e-Safety Law

7.      Interception and Monitoring Law

8.      Freedom of Information Law

9.      Hosting Liability and e-Security Law

10.    Accessibility Law

11.    Additional Examples

1.     What’s in this Guidance?

This guidance is intended for staff in sixth form colleges and aims to provide a helpful overview to key legal issues relevant to sixth form colleges in the development and use of ICT.

Do any of the following activities arise in your college? If so, then the information in this guidance is of relevance to you:

  • Staff using images downloaded from websites in their learning materials
  • Use of the internet, mobile phones and social networking sites by students and by the college staff to communicate with students or as additional learning tools
  • Staff working at home using laptops, memory sticks and other mobile technologies
  • Inappropriate comments made by staff or students online, in blogs or on social networks
  • Provision made for students to watch videos during lunch break

A summary of the main actions required for legal compliance in respect of these activities is provided in the table at the end of this guidance.

2.     Benefits of Legal Compliance

  Legally compliant ICT systems will:

  • Allow you to develop and deploy ICT without doubt as to legal consequences
  • Help you to build a positive reputation for your college
  • Improve your college’s performance in quality inspections
  • Help to protect you from legal liability
  • Bring you peace of mind

3.     Key Legal Areas

There are several areas of law which impact on the use of ICT in your sixth form college but none should present a barrier to such use. What follows is an overview of:

  • Copyright Law
  • Data Protection
  • E-Safety
  • Interception & Monitoring Law
  • Freedom of Information
  • Hosting Liability and E-security
  • Accessibility Law

4.     Copyright Law

What’s the Issue?

Staff and learners at your sixth form college are likely to make extensive use of materials that belong to others including books, articles, software, images and multimedia.  The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) provides certain exclusive rights to copyright owners, including the right to copy, communicate, distribute, perform and adapt their works.

Your staff can perform these actions where:

  • The college is the copyright owner (e.g. if college staff have written the materials themselves)
  • They have the copyright owner’s permission (e.g. where a blanket Copyright Licensing Agency licence is in place or other permission for use has been given)
  • The use falls into one of the limited exemptions under the CDPA, for example fair dealing for criticism or review, copying for purpose of preparing or giving examinations, copies for private use of visually impaired learners.


Your sixth form college wants to stream a feature film through its VLE.  Permission would be required from the producer and/or principal director of a feature film prior to converting it for streaming.  Unless viewing of the film is limited to the purposes of instruction or examination then permission would also be required to view the film on the VLE. Your current Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL) would restrict viewing to access within college premises and would not extend to access from, for example a student’s home.



An English teacher finds images on the internet which he wants to use in his teaching materials to illustrate the play his students are discussing. The images have no copyright statement but the lecturer is pleased to have found them for free as they are for sale on another website. It is possible that the images could be copyright infringing on the free website and therefore further copying ( i.e. downloading by the teacher would be copyright infringement. Further investigation would be needed to ascertain who owns the rights and permission for use sought.  Some rightsholders (e.g. Getty images) enforce their rights more rigorously than others.

For further information regarding copyright please visit the copyright area on our website:

5.     Data Protection Law

What’s the Issue?

Sixth form colleges collect process and use the data of individuals such as learners and staff for various purposes.  The college has obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) to ensure the accuracy, relevancy and security of such information. 


Your sixth form college wants to include photographs of its learners in its College prospectus in print and on the website.  If the image is of an identifiable learner this processing will be subject to the DPA and the consent of the learner (or the parent if the learner is not capable of giving consent) should be obtained before inclusion.  The college should ensure the consent covers the proposed use and any anticipated subsequent use such as a local town centre advertising campaign using digital billboards.  



Your sixth form college receives a request from the parent of a learner for access to the learner’s attendance records.  Unlike school education records, where the law sets out parental access rights, there is no similar right in respect of the education record of students at a sixth form college and so disclosure to a parent will need to be done in accordance with the DPA. This means that the consent of the student will usually be needed.  Colleges deal with this situation by setting out in their student contracts what information will be disclosed and using this route to obtain the consent of the student.



A college teacher transfers students’ personal details to a memory stick to aid his report preparation which he is doing at home.  He leaves his laptop and memory stick in the boot of his car which is stolen from his drive.  Neither the laptop nor the memory stick is encrypted.  This is likely to be a breach of the DPA.  The Information Commissioner who has responsibility for policing the DPA has clearly stated in several decisions to date, that mobile devices including laptops,  containing personal data should as a norm be protected using encryption technology.  The ICO can now issue monetary penalties and has done so for breaches involving memory sticks and laptops.

For further information regarding data protection including model consent forms, please visit the data protection area on our website: 

6.     e-Safety Law

What’s the Issue?

Sixth Form colleges have both common law (such as duty of care) and statutory duties to safeguard the welfare of all learners including when making use of ICT.  There are a variety of legal issues to consider within the e-safety context, including; cyber bullying, harassment, defamation, hosting liability and data protection.   


One of your sixth form college teachers wants to set up a Facebook group for the exclusive use of a group of students where they can share information and ideas regarding a number of off site visits in which they are involved.  There is no legal reason why this may not be done but the college has a duty of care to ensure that the environment is “safe” for learners and staff and a higher standard of care is expected when young learners are involved.  The college should perform an appropriate risk assessment which includes whether it is appropriate in the particular circumstances, e.g. Facebook may not be the appropriate vehicle where confidential or sensitive information is likely to be disclosed.  The college should ensure that any use of Facebook is in line with all existing relevant policies e.g. e-Safety, Disciplinary, Acceptable Use and Child Protection policies.  Staff and learners should be aware of privacy and security settings and of what is and what is not acceptable conduct when using social networking facilities such as Facebook.



One of your students is a loner, quite isolated and with few friends.  She has set up a Twitter (microblogging) account which she can update from her smart phone.  She tweets details of her thoughts and movements and is very pleased to have over thirty people following her tweets. The college should have advice available for students on the importance of privacy settings and the risks of disclosure of movements and personal information on social networking and other sites.  There are many resources available, as links from JISC Legal’s website, on staying safe on-line which could be used.



A student at your sixth form college uses the college computer network to send another student abusive e-mail.  There should be anti-bullying (or similar) and child protection policies in place.  The college has a duty of care to provide a safe learning environment and could potentially incur liability if it fails to investigate the matter or take any action in accordance with the college’s policies.



Your sixth form college wants to show a clip from an 18 certificate film to learners under the age of 18.  Sixth form colleges have a duty of care to learners which means that they must take steps a reasonable person would take to prevent harm or damage.  It could be asserted that showing an 18 certificate film to under 18s breaches this duty of care, and the college would be liable for any harm or damage that occurred.  The showing of under 18 films may also be judged inappropriate by quality inspection bodies when rating the provision of a safe learning environment.  One option to reduce the level of risk would be to seek written permission from the parents of under 18 learners or alternatively you may be able to use a different film which fulfils the purpose but is not rated 18.


Further guidance including links to risk assessment tools on e-safety can be found in our webcast: Safeguarding – meeting your e-Safety Duties at

7.     Interception and Monitoring Law

What’s the Issue?

Sixth form colleges have the right and power to monitor the use of their network and their facilities to prevent abuse.  Remote monitoring is covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).   Any interception must be carried out within the limits set out by the legislation and learners likely to be subjected to interception, should as far as is reasonably possible, be made aware that it may take place. 


Your sixth form college wants to carry out monitoring of learner e-mails.  Any monitoring of systems, even if it is minimal, must be done with the knowledge of the persons who are subject to monitoring. This is mostly done by colleges through their Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) or interception and monitoring policy document. With regard to interception where there is suspicion of criminal conduct or use of illicit material, the JISC Legal webcast on Interception and Monitoring Law provides detailed guidance.


8.     Freedom of Information Law

What’s the Issue?

By law, a sixth form college is required to respond to freedom of information (FOI) requests within 20 working days (subject to certain exceptions).


The college has recently moved some of its ICT document storage to a cloud service provider which offered a very attractive and cost effective package. An FOI request is made for some information stored externally and the college is having difficulty in retrieval from the service provider.  Aside from other issues regarding security and unauthorised access to information stored in the cloud, this could result in a breach of the FOI Legislation and a resulting investigation by the ICO, the body responsible for ensuring compliance with the law.  With emerging technologies it is essential to choose a reliable service provider where the risk of data lock in or loss is minimised as far as possible.

For further information regarding freedom of information please visit the freedom of information area on our website:

For further information on cloud computing visit the cloud computing theme pages on our website at:

9.     Hosting Liability and e-Security Law

What’s the Issue?

A sixth form college may be liable for illegal material hosted on its computers.  This may include music files copied in breach of copyright, pornographic or obscene materials and defamatory or racially abusive material. 

For further information regarding hosting liability please visit the hosting liability area on our website:  


Learners at your sixth form college download obscene materials onto your college servers and share this with friends.  Your IT staff are alerted to this but they cannot find time to investigate and are unsure of the legality of monitoring user accounts.  Another learner finds the material and his parents make a complaint.  Your college risks prosecution, investigation into how it runs its IT provision, and serious loss of reputation.  The college should have an Acceptable Use Policy which is easy to access and understand, a “Notice & Takedown Policy” in respect of complaints about material and a procedure for monitoring communications and user accounts.


10.     Accessibility Law

What’s the Issue?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a sixth form college is obliged not to discriminate against disabled learners in their service provisions (including resources and delivery of teaching) and you should have a plan in place for ensuring inclusion.


Your sixth form college wants to use a Facebook group to enable learners to discuss coursework where learners on the course may include learners with a visual impairment.  The college should evaluate tools for accessibility or adaptability, look at possible adaptations and consider how the learner may participate without being put at a disadvantage.

For further information on accessibility please visit the accessibility law area on our website:  

11.     Additional Examples

At the beginning of this paper some examples were given of activities that may arise in your college.   A summary of the main actions required for legal compliance in respect of these activities is provided in the table below.


Applicable law

Compliance actions

Staff using images downloaded from websites in their learning materials


Permission from rightsholder needed – usually via a licence. Could also check college licences for alternative material, use material out of copyright or subject to open licence or use resources created by the college and copyright owned by the college

Use of the internet, mobile phones and social networking sites by students and by the college staff to communicate with students or as additional learning tools

Safeguarding, Data protection, Accessibility

Risk assessment of the activity, acceptable use, safeguarding and data protection policies in place. Training and information for staff and students on appropriate /inappropriate use

Staff working at home using laptops, memory sticks and other mobile technologies


Data protection (personal information)

Use encryption technologies, training and awareness of staff if accessing personal data

Inappropriate comments made by staff or students online, in blogs or on social networks

Possible personal liability for defamation. Safeguarding and Hosting liability of college

Acceptable use and notice and take down policies in place. Child protection, anti-bullying, safeguarding procedures should all include online activities. Information and guidance including reporting procedures in place for staff and students

Provision made for students to watch videos during lunch break


Licence required for this activity - PVSL


Posted on 16/02/2012

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