When a student discloses a personal matter to you, in your role as a Personal Tutor, it is helpful to ask them who they would like you to share this with and keeping a note of their response. When making a note of the conversation, it is advisable to simply record the facts relating to that dialogue and avoiding any judgemental terminology. Remember that a student can ask to see all information held on them at any stage.
In some cases, a student might disclose something to you, which they ask you to keep completely confidential. This request should be respected wherever possible; however you must explain that you might need to seek advice from colleagues, if they disclose something that is an issue that you do not feel comfortable or competent to deal with.
You could normally seek this advice anonymously, e.g. by contacting the Student Support Services for guidance but not giving the name of the student. Alternatively, you can encourage the student to make an appointment to speak with someone within Student Support Services and reassure them that their confidentiality will be respected and that nothing would be disclosed without their knowledge or consent, except in very extreme circumstances.
Where there is genuine concern that the student, or others, may be in danger then personal information SHOULD be shared either with appropriate officers within the University or with the police. Cases when confidentiality should be broken are where:
- You think the student is in danger of harming themselves or others, or
- For the purpose of prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension of offenders.
If a student admits to a crime that has not previously been disclosed or genuinely threatens to commit a crime then the tutor is obliged to inform an appropriate authority.
In some situations, it might be necessary for a Personal Tutor to set some very clear boundaries with a student. An example of this would be where a student repeatedly reports information that is out with your professional competence to handle but has not taken your advice to access other appropriate services. It such situations, it is important that you seek advice. Although these conversations can initially be anonymous, a point might be reached where the student has to be advised that this confidentiality had to be breached to a limited extent, due to a concern for their safety or the safety of others.
Finally, it is important to be aware that no information about a student should be disclosed to an external third party without their consent and/or relevant paperwork. If phoned by for example, a parent, you should politely explain that you are unable to have a conversation about any personal information, including assessment outcomes, without such consent. Even confirming or denying that an individual is a student at the University would infringe the Data Protection Act.
Governance and Review