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Children as young as five to be fingerprinted in schools

UK Daily Mail | July 23, 2007

Schools are to get the Government's permission to fingerprint all pupils.

Ministers will issue guidance telling them they have the right to install fingerprint scanners and collect biometric data from children as young as five.

The data could be used to monitor school attendance, control lunch queues and help with the issuing of library books.

The move is likely to anger opposition MPs and civil liberty campaigners.

About 280 schools are thought to be using fingerprint scans already after software companies started selling packages five or six years ago.

But many head teachers have been waiting for the government go-ahead, fearing they might be in breach of data protection laws.

Lib-Dem schools spokesman David Laws said: "It's about time the Government responded to our concerns about the haphazard fingerprinting of children.

"This should never have happened without proper guidance and without the assurance of secure data protection.

"We will want to satisfy ourselves that the Government has thought through the new policies rather than acting in a knee-jerk way."

Liberty, the civil rights group, said: "We have some serious concerns that this biometric data is being collected from children simply for administrative convenience.

"We want to know what happens to the data after the children leave. The police have the right to get into any database, private or public."

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls will outline the guidance in a written statement to MPs today.

It is expected to say that personal data, including fingerprints and eyeball scans, can be collected from pupils, with scanners at the entrance to classrooms, the school gates and in cafeterias.

Schools will have to consult parents first and will not be permitted to share the data with outside bodies. However, it is understood that schools will not have to gain written permission from each parent.

The guidance, written by Becta, the British Education Communications and Technology Agency, which advises the Government on technology in education, will go out to schools and further education colleges.

A Whitehall official said: "We know that schools are increasingly looking at technology to make their lives easier. Fingerprinting is popular in some schools as it frees up time for teachers.

"We leave it up to schools to decide what administrative systems to bring in to make their day-today running smoother. But some parents have concerns. This guidance will make it crystal clear."

Ministers will clarify that data must not be used for anything other than the stated purpose or passed on outside the school. Staff must also erase all details when the pupil has left the school.

However, there are fears that school computers are not secure enough to keep data safe from hackers.

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