Educational consultancy Gabbitas has blamed hackers for a data breach that left detailed personal records of over 1,300 children exposed on its website for an unknown period of time.

According to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, sensitive data on the site that could be accessed included a database of behavioural and education notes on 1,367 children submitted by parents paying the company £200 an hour to advise on suitable private schools.

This included extensive details of their personalities, strengths and weakness, illnesses and learning difficulties.

The newspaper said it had reported the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

“We have recently been made aware of this possible data breach,” the ICO said in an emailed statement to Techworld. “We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.”

It is unclear how long the data was exposed for nor how the newspaper learned of the issue.

Meanwhile, Gabbitas has claimed that the leak was caused by outsiders rather than its own staff without elaborating further. The company had since called in police to investigate, it said.

“Gabbitas is deeply concerned that one of its websites had been accessed illegally. We are taking these matters extremely seriously. Measures have been taken to ensure the security of all other sites from such attack,” Gabbitas said in a statement mailed to journalists.

“The chairman of Gabbitas has apologised unreservedly to any individuals who may have been affected by this unauthorised access.”

Embarrassingly for the Government, Gabbitas is part of the Prospectus Services outsourcing group which reportedly received millions of pounds of public sector contracts last year.

As yet there is no evidence that malicious use has been made of the leaked data.