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Confidentiality in schools

“The way in which the issue of confidentiality is handled within a school will be seen by staff, pupils and parents as an indicator of the respect for and value given to the needs and wishes of each individual.”

Confidentiality in Schools’, Sheila White, Brook

The dictionary definition of confidential is ‘something which is spoken or given in confidence; private, entrusted with another’s secret affairs.’

Schools play a key role in promoting the positive emotional wellbeing and mental health of all pupils. In setting the clear expectation of a consistently positive culture, underpinned by trust, respect and safety, school leaders ensure that pupils feel valued and that they belong. This makes it possible for pupils to talk about their problems safely in a non-stigmatising way. Pupils should have a range of trusted adults to talk to in school and they should also have a clear understanding of confidentiality boundaries with a range of adults. Laying these foundations at a young age will support pupils in accessing help, guidance and support whenever they need it as they navigate life. This is important because we know that concerns about confidentiality, and subsequent lack of trust, are the main barriers that stop young people from accessing advice and support when they need it; a potential risk to their emotional wellbeing and mental health.


The extra support form may be useful in supporting pupils who have disclosed an issue such as a family crisis. The subsequent discussion and the completion of the form will determine how the school responds, in relation to the pupil’s wishes. In particular, decisions will be made and agreed about who needs to know and what they need to know in order for the pupil to be supported. This puts the pupil in the driving seat which may provide a degree of resilience to mental health problems, even in the face of difficulty.

The Sex Education Forum provide helpful information about how schools can ensure that pupils have access to confidential advice and support.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has developed lesson plans tailored to specific areas of the curriculum. The focus is to help children and young people:

  • Better understand the value and importance of their personal information.
  • Know how to look after it.
  • Understand the obligations that organisations have.

The NHS Youth Forum has developed a series of ‘your rights’ posters to help young people understand their healthcare rights around issues such as consent and confidentiality.