Some 30 years ago, when the desktop PC started to become available in offices around the world,
corporate philosophers declared the end of paper was nigh and we would soon see completely paperless offices.
The reality, however, is somewhat different. Paper files and records continue to proliferate and research suggests the amount of paper in the world has increased an average of seven per cent since the introduction of the PC.
In addition legislation, such as the Public Records Act 2005 and the Privacy Act 1993, require schools to keep an increasing amount of documentation, not all of which is able to be scanned and stored electronically.
So, how can a school manage the amount of paper records it has and ensure it complies with record storage and handling regulations?
School administrators firstly need to be aware of what constitutes a record. In short, a record is any documentation that refers to the business processes of the school. This can include minutes of meeting, financial accounts, schools reports, employment contracts and business agreements.
If any of these records are in paper form, it is essential that these are filed and stored in a way that provides easy access for authorised staff, but that also fulfils the requirements of the Privacy Act 1993. This legislation requires that records are stored securely and cannot be accessed, used or modified without permission.
Document storage needs to be well thought out and planned. For example, the same naming conventions should be used on both electronic and paper documents to eliminate confusion when searching for documents.
The area in which the school chooses to store its paper documents should be clean and dry and appropriate storage facilities, such as wax lined or acid free boxes for items that need to be stored indefinitely, should be purchased.
It is also important to understand just how long certain records need to be kept. The School Records Retention and Disposal Schedule produced by the Ministry of Education and Archives New Zealand, gives clear instructions on how long to keep school records, why this is necessary and what should happen to them when they are no longer needed.
See www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/SchoolOperations/PlanningAndReporting/SchoolRecordsSchedule.aspx for further information on filing and storing paper records.