29 May 2020
[FYI request #12489 email]
Tēnā koe Dave
Thank you for your request of 20 March 2020 to the Ministry of Education for information on
informed consent for proprietary software used at New Zealand Public Schools
Your request has been considered under the Official Information Act 1982 (the Act).
My response to your request is set out below in the order of the questions you raised.
• Almost all NZ's public school kids are at either a "Google" or "Microsoft" school. Their
curriculums are tightly tied to Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365. Most also use the
SeeSaw classroom/portfolio system extensively. Al of these are foreign corporate
proprietary software with most or all student data hosted outside the NZ jurisdiction.
• Who at the Ministry reviews & approves the Terms & Conditions of all these proprietary
applications? Where are their analyses and guidance for schools and parents published
for review? How often are these Ts&Cs revisited and re-analysed, given that all of the
software vendors stipulate "these terms can change at any time without notice"?
The Ministry does not review or approve the terms and conditions on behalf of schools.
Because schools are independent entities governed by boards of trustees, they are free to
decide what technology platforms they deploy within their schools for their students. As you
point out, schools typically take advantage of educational product offerings. Schools are
responsible for assessing the costs, benefits and risks of these products.
Schools can seek advice from a range of sources to assist their decision making, including:
o The Ministry’s Enabling e-learning website: http://elearning.tki.org.nz/.
o Ministry funded ICT Helpdesk (0800 225542, email: [email address])
assist schools with software enquiries, and wil re-direct calls to other parties where
appropriate to assist schools.
o Ministry funded Connected Learning Advisory service, which has a specific role to
provide advice and support for using digital technologies effectively for teaching and
We note that we responded in early 2019 to a request from you for information on the Ministry’s
role in relation to schools’ adoption of Microsoft 365. Our position on software used for
education remains the same.
National Of ice, Mātauranga House, 33 Bowen Street, Wellington 6011
PO Box 1666, Wel ington 6140. Phone: +64 4 463 8000 Fax: +64 4 463 8001
The Ministry funds some software that schools can choose to use. General information about
these can be found here: http://education.govt.nz/school/digital-technology/software/.
Licenses are assigned to a school, and it is the responsibility of schools to review the Terms
and Conditions when changes occur. We have working relationships with software suppliers,
who often inform us of changes that affect schools so that we can include these on our website.
These software products are well tested and have been deployed in educational jurisdictions
and institutes around the world. Information about their data policies are published online.
Google’s student data policies can be found here: https:/ edu.google.com/why-google/privacy-
and Microsoft’s here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-sg/apac/trustedcloud/new-
If you click on the Privacy link and go down three levels you can find:
• Who clicks "I ACCEPT" on behalf of each student for each of these proprietary apps? As
a parent, I've never been asked to approve the use of any of these applications for my
children. Wouldn't this be required by the software proprietors to claim "informed consent"?
Doesn't having a non-parent or guardian accepting it on behalf of parents and students
constitute a breach of the terms of all these applications?
Schools own the software licenses for the products they choose to implement & use in their
school environments and make these software products available to their students. If parents
are concerned about consenting to their children using software used by their school, they
should approach the principal or board directly.
• How does the Ministry fulfil its statutory obligations to public school children whose
informed parents quite reasonably reject the Ts&Cs of one or more of these proprietary
services as unacceptable impositions on their children's freedom, privacy, and data
Boards of trustees carry these statutory responsibilities.
• What advice have you received on these issues from your legal advisors? Who have you
consulted to provide suggestions for less controversial software options and what advice
have your received? For example, that you could adopt open source options that could be
commercially hosted on behalf of the Ministry onshore in the NZ jurisdiction, where the
Ministry can then set the Ts&Cs (similar to how apps like Moodle and Mahara (aka My
Portfolio) are hosted currently)?
The Ministry has not received advice on these issues from our legal advisers, except to confirm
that Boards of Trustees are responsible for decisions relating to their adoption of technologies.
The Government’s Chief Digital Officer oversees the development and management of digital
for the state sector, and leads the direction of digital. The Government’s Chief Digital Officer
is responsible for, among other things, setting digital policy, standards and guidance for
government agencies. You can find information here:
In response to COVID-19, the Government’s Chief Digital Officer has directed that
Government organisations use public cloud services in preference to traditional IT systems.
You can find this information at the following site:
Please note, the Ministry now proactively publishes OIA responses on our website. As such,
we may publish this response on our website after five working days. Your name and contact
details wil be removed.
Thank you again for your email. You have the right to ask an Ombudsman to review this
decision. You can do this by writing to [email address]
or Office of the
Ombudsman, PO Box 10152, Wellington 6143.
Nāku noa, nā
Business Enablement and Support
- The request and due date
- Proposed response