Privacy concerns raised as more than one million pupils are fingerprinted in schools

An estimated 31 per cent of schools did not consult parents before using the biometric technology

Education Editor

More than a million pupils have been fingerprinted at their secondary school - thousands without their parents’ consent, according to new research published on Friday.

Figures show that four out of 10 secondary schools now use biometric technology as a means of identifying pupils - with nearly a third failing in their duty to seek parental consent before introducing the system.

The figures are based on Freedom of Information request returns from 1,255 schools to the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch with the group warning pupils will grow up believing “it is normal to be tracked like this all the time”.

The most common uses of the system are at meal-times where headteachers claim it can be a more “discreet” method of ensuring those pupils entitled to free school meals get them - and in school libraries.  Some have used the system for registration of pupils at school.

Based on the FOI returns in September, Big Brother Watch estimates 1.28 million pupils have been fingerprinted. Of those surveyed, an estimated 31 per cent did not consult parents before using biometric technology from September.

“Going to school should not mean kids are taught that they have no privacy, especially at a time when we are sharing more data about ourselves than ever before,” said Nick Pickles. director of Big Brother Watch.

“Fingerprinting them and tracking what they do might save some admin work but the risk is pupils think it is normal to be tracked like this all the time.  Schools need to be transparent about what data is being collected and it is used,

“Parents will be rightly concerned to hear so many schools did not seek their permission to fingerprint their children while pupils may not have been made aware they now have a legal right to ask to use a system that doesn’t require a fingerprint to be taken.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders - which represents secondary school heads, said: “It is significantly easier for schools to use this system in a number of ways - for example for taking things pout of libraries and at meal-times. 

“Most kids don’t lose their fingers whereas losing cards is far more likely.  This cuts down on the need for youngsters to carry cards.  Children can also have their cards stolen or be bullied for them.”

The system also meant pupils entitled to free school meals no longer had to present a card which could identify them to other pupils.

Mr Trobe insisted its use did not mean pupils were being fingerprinted as in what would happen in a police station.  “IT is a number recognition system - whereby the fingerprint is translated into a number.  Schools will destroy the information once the pupil leaves the school.”

He said that its introduction at the school where he taught until five years ago saw “only the odd parent” registering an objection - “one or two out of 650/700 families”.

Sion Humphreys, policy adviser to the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “Schools can find this technology extremely useful to help efficiently administer systems like cashless catering and borrowing library books.  As a result, the use of biometrics is likely to become more widespread.

“NAHT does not have a problem with biometrics as an administrative tool but schools must comply with the guidelines to ensure pupil privacy is protected.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “It is absolutely right that parents should decide how their child’s personal data is used.

“That is why we changed the law so parents now have the right to prevent schools and colleges - including independent schools - using their children’s biometric data.

“Schools and colleges must now ensure that written consent is obtained from parents before a child’s biometric data is taken and used and must make alternative arrangements if the request is refused.”

Mr Trobe said many schools would include the consent form as part of a list of items for which the school needed parental consent given to parents when their child enrolled at the school.

News
i100
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Sport
Neil Warnock
football'New' manager for Crystal Palace
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sport
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Arts and Entertainment
BBC series 'Sherlock' scooped a hat-trick of awards on the night. Benedict Cumberbatch received the award for Actor, Miniseries or Movie ('Sherlock: His Last Vow') while Martin Freeman won the award for Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie. Neither actor was present to collect their awards
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Sup...

IT Teacher September strt with view to permanent post

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IT...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis