The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published a Good Practice Note to help explain to head teachers, boards of governors and school data protection officers how the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) affects the publishing of examination results. The note provides guidance on whether an individual's examination results should be published, highlighting that the DPA requires schools to act fairly when publishing results. It also deals with objections to publication and discusses the age at which children can independently make requests about their information.

The publishing of examination results has long been a common and accepted practice, usually being in the legitimate interest of the school to do so. As such, pupils and parents do not need to give their consent before publication, but they should be informed as soon as possible how and whether results will be made public. Publication can take place through the media or, more commonly, by displaying lists of results on publicly accessible notice boards.

The Act does not specify exactly at what age a child can request that the publication of their examination results be withheld and although a guide of 12 years old is given, the ICO recommends that each case be reviewed independently.

Under the Freedom of Information legislation, students may request further information about their results from their universities or colleges, such as examination scripts and examiner's comments. The institution is required to respond within 40 days and is not allowed to withhold examination results from someone who has failed to pay the course or examination fees.

Neither Act, of course, allows pupils to access their results before the official publication date!