Schools need to securely store and share a lot of sensitive data as part of their day-to-day operations, from financial information to personal details.

All education settings have to ensure compliance with GDPR and other standards such as financial regulations. But with staff workloads already stretched, making sure data is properly protected can be a headache.

Wasiq Suleman works with several schools in different settings, supporting areas including finance, operations and human resources. This includes Heaton St Barnabas’ C of E (VA) Primary School, Bradford, which has around 420 pupils aged 4-11.

We spoke to Wasiq about keeping confidential data safe in schools and when working from home, and the joys of working to benefit children.

What data security challenges were schools facing which led you to Galaxkey?

We had an increasing number of staff in different settings wanting to be able to send and receive encrypted messages at any time, to anyone they needed to share data with securely. Particularly our safeguarding officers, who deal with lots of sensitive information.

We already had the free version of Galaxkey, which we used for communicating securely with the Local Authority and Department of Education. We could receive their encrypted messages and reply, but we couldn’t send encrypted messages or files to just anyone.

Meanwhile, a lot more of our suppliers and other third parties we work with were using Galaxkey to protect their data. So for us to work smoothly with them it made sense to move to a fully licenced version of Galaxkey, to give us unlimited encrypted emails and file sharing.

What kinds of external organisations does your school need to exchange sensitive data with?

From my personal perspective, the Local Authority and Department of Education are the main ones. We use Galaxkey to receive and send financial and operational data.

The other important third parties for schools are any agencies to do with safeguarding. As you can imagine, schools sometimes have to send very sensitive personal information about children, sometimes without much notice. To know that it’s been sent securely using encryption is vital.

Before Galaxkey, what did you do when you needed to send information securely?

We’d do it the old, archaic way of sending an email – just a normal email – with a password-protected file. And then texting a password separately to the person receiving it.

Not a great way of doing it, but unfortunately it was just needs must.

But when GDPR came into play I thought, schools have got to do something about this now. Find a better way to secure data, rather than running into difficulties later on.

How has having Galaxkey helped schools overcome some of the data security challenges you were facing before?

Now, these schools have full confidence when they’re sending data that it’s kept safe. When sharing children’s personal information – dates of birth, addresses, medical needs and so on – the last thing you want is to be sending things like that unprotected.

I think it’s worth a lot of money to be able to protect that kind of data.

All the staff in the various settings that needed a licence have now got one, so everyone’s happy. Now they can all independently use Galaxkey to send as many encrypted messages and files as needed.

And it’s a smooth transition, it’s efficient. You can send something across using Galaxkey and know that it’s arrived and it’s encrypted. There’s no need to double-check, to phone and say, Did you get that? Have you opened it? You can just see that documents are being received and read.

What was the response from school staff to getting Galaxkey?

Everyone loves it because it just works. It’s a relief knowing that information is going to arrive securely, that it’s kept safe.

And particularly during COVID-19 lockdowns with remote learning and remote working, it’s been really good having Galaxkey already there. Schools didn’t close, they stayed open for key worker children. But technically, everybody has been working from home at some point.

And knowing that you’ve got a secure way to send emails and files when you’re working from home, it’s one less thing to think about.

Does having Galaxkey help with meeting the school’s GDPR commitments?

Yes, 100%. When we changed all our data protection policies and moved to GDPR policies, it became a big plus to be able to say we use a system like Galaxkey to ensure end-to-end encryption.

Finally, what do you love most about your role as a business manager?

I’m from a non-education background and work in various financial and auditing roles. I started working with schools about eight years ago, both through the maintained sector and academies. And I never thought I’d say this, it sounds a bit clichéd, but it’s amazing.

Although I don’t directly work with children, as my main emphasis is on finance and operations, still, with the work we do, the end result is a brighter and more successful future for our children.

Hearing stories of how budgets I’ve set and investments I’ve organised for schools has helped improve aspects of teaching and learning makes it all worthwhile. For instance, I recently invested in 75” touchscreens for the whole school. They make learning more interactive, and now it’s much clearer for the children to see what’s on screen.

Knowing that you’ve had some positive input in a child’s development and future is very warming.

Read a case study on how Heaton St Barnabas school use Galaxkey for easier, stronger data security.

And to learn more about how Galaxkey can help you protect confidential data or book a demo, contact us on info@galaxkey.com