The Western Australian government has put forward legislation that would see the personal data of school students across the state made available for research purposes.
The government’s School Curriculum and Standards Authority Amendment Bill 2017, currently before parliament, would let the state’s curriculum authority disclose identified student data to meet a federal government requirement for participation in NAPLAN online testing.
NAPLAN online testing is set to commence in WA during next year, but state education minister Sue Ellery has flagged that the full transition could be pushed out until 2020 instead of 2019.
A secondary clause in the bill gives authority to disclose identified student data for “research involving students”, including for the purposes of promoting and understanding student achievement or wellbeing.
This includes “any relevant information that [the School Curriculum and Standards Authority] holds”, which could include names, dates of birth, addresses, information about a students’ academic record, and information about their parents.
“It is anticipated that such research would seek to understand and improve outcomes in education achievement and related areas such as health and the criminal justice system,” the bill’s explanatory memorandum states.
This would be done without “obtain[ing] consent from individuals about whom the information relates”, but would require the School Curriculum and Standards Authority to “impose conditions” on the recipients of the data.
The bill also puts the onus on the authority to determine how long data may be retained and whether “the person to whom the information is disclosed take[s] all reasonable steps to” protect the data from “misuse, interference, loss, unauthorised access or modification”.
The WA opposition has raised concerns about the release of identified student data and has requested stronger controls be put in place, given that WA is the only state or territory currently without privacy legislation.
A review of data linkage in the state last month did not flag the release of identified data for research purposes as a future intention of the government.