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Caring for school records

School records are of immediate interest and value to the pupils and staff who have learned and taught in that particular place.

However, they also have a much wider significance. Few records document the history of a community as well as those of schools, apart from church archives.

They are also documents of legal and administrative importance. Former pupils may need certified copies of their entries in the admission registers to obtain jobs abroad or to avoid deportation.

Please remember that school records are the property of Norfolk County Council (NCC).

They must not be loaned or given to any third party, whether staff, governors or local historians.

Role of the Norfolk Record Office

We are the official place of deposit for NCC’s own records, including those of schools.

We have thousands of log books, admission registers and other records relating to closed schools which have been deposited by Children’s Services and its predecessor, Norfolk Education Department.

We also hold a considerable number of records relating to existing schools which have been deposited by headteachers.

The records are stored in purpose-built strongrooms where the temperature and humidity is controlled and the documents are protected by an automatic inert gas fire-extinguishing system.

We are always happy to receive new deposits of school records. If you want to arrange a transfer, contact us.

Records kept in schools

If you have any queries about managing your current pupil files and school records, please contact the Children’s Services department at NCC.

Records to be preserved permanently

  • Log books
  • Admission registers and pupil lists
  • Attendance registers (only in absence of admission registers)
  • Punishment books
  • Manager’s/governors’ minutes and papers
  • Headteacher’s reports to managers or governors (if not included in the minutes)
  • School Board minute books
  • Local Education Authority and central government circulars
  • Infectious diseases registers
  • Reports of HM Inspector of Schools, Diocesan Inspector of Schools and Ofsted reports and papers
  • Stock and school equipment books
  • School prospectus
  • Instruments of management
  • Documents relating to the foundation of the school: trust deeds, building accounts, lists of subscribers to building fund, etc
  • School policy documents covering such items as health and safety, bullying, behaviour, discipline, etc
  • School development plans
  • School magazines and newsletters
  • Photographs of the school and its activities (identified if possible)
  • Programmes for school events such as concerts, sports days and centenary celebrations
  • Newspaper cuttings and scrapbooks relating to the school and its activities
  • Plans of school buildings
  • School timetables and records relating to the school curriculum
  • Any documents relating to wartime evacuees
  • Minutes and records of the school’s parent teacher association or friends organisation
  • Records of school clubs and old pupil associations
  • Headteacher’s and secretary’s diaries (relating to school business)
  • Visitors’ books

Records to be preserved for limited periods

Certain types of records are required to be kept for a set number of years for legal and financial purposes. They include the categories listed below:

  • Attendance registers
  • Accident book
  • Annual risk assessment of the school and the fire risk assessment
  • Any inspection records of the premises or equipment
  • Premises defects book
  • Staff training records
  • Schemes of work or lesson plans
  • Risk assessments and planning material for school trip

Data protection

School records deposited with us are subject to closure periods, at the request of Children's Services. As a guide:

  • Log books are usually closed for 50 years
  • Punishment books for 50 years
  • Manager’s/governors’ minutes (reserved business) for 30 years
  • Admission registers for 30 years
  • Photographs of children for 30 years

However, some records may be closed for longer periods.

The log books in particular may contain sensitive information relating to staff, children and parents.

Schools must observe these closure periods and data protection regulations when releasing information from their records.

Handling of records

The factor that most affects the condition of records is damage caused by usage and mishandling. Every time a record is handled, its life is shortened.

Anyone consulting books and documents should first wash and dry their hands, place the records on a clean table, use a pencil to make notes and ensure that there is no food or drink in the vicinity.

Photographs, negatives, transparencies or plates should be handled carefully, by the edges only.

The best protection for prints and negatives is a polyester enclosure. This material is clear, strong and chemically inert.

Original photographs should not be displayed, as they will fade with exposure to light. Always display a copy.

Storage

Records should be stored in cool, dry, and well ventilated conditions. Variations in temperature and humidity will have harmful effects, so basements and attics should be avoided.

Ideally, records should be boxed to keep them out of the light and kept away from direct sources of heat such as radiators.

They should also be stored in a secure area, so that unauthorised people cannot gain access.

For more information on handling and storage issues, see our guide to caring for books and documents. Our conservation team would also be happy to give advice. 

Copies of records

If you wish to use the school records for a teaching project (for instance, the Victorians), we recommend you make surrogate copies for use in the classroom and then deposit the originals here.

Probably the easiest and least damaging way to copy books and documents is with a digital camera. 

Papers may be photocopied or scanned so long as they are not bigger than the scanner bed and do not need to be pressed down flat.

Volumes should not be photocopied or scanned, as this damages the spine.

Access to records and loan of showcases

If you do deposit your historical records with us, you will be able to consult them in our searchroom if you need to see them again.

If you want to borrow them back for important occasions, such as the anniversary of the founding of the school, we could lend you showcases (subject to availability) in which to display the documents. You would need to book in advance – contact us for more details.