Q: I have been approached by solicitors for a report on a pupil who is appearing in court. I suspect that the motive is to find material to discredit the pupil as a witness. How should I respond?
A: We all have an interest in justice and a duty to assist the courts. The records which a school keeps relating to individual pupils are, however, confidential and available only to the parents or to students themselves when they reach 18. When pupils appear in court, charged with offences, schools are asked to provide reports to assist the court at the sentencing stage. These should be confined to verifiable factual information and should present a fair and balanced account of the pupil from the school's point of view.
In the case which you raise, where the pupil is summoned as a witness and hence the desire to discredit his or evidence, you have no duty to assist this solicitor. I would recommend that you offered the bare bones of factual information, such as length of time on the roll, attendance record and basic level of scholastic achievement. To maintain the trust of both pupil and parents, you might copy what you have provided to the parents.
* Archimedes regrets he cannot enter into correspondence with readers.