Teacher Talk

Dyfrig Ellis is head of Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Lonlas, a primary school in Swansea, which is considering issuing pupils with a wrist tag that would alert teachers if the child left the premises
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How would the tagging work?

How would the tagging work?

It would be primarily for children in Years 1 and 2. The child would wear a bracelet, much like during a swimming lesson, and the supervising teacher would have a receiver. If a child got within 20m of an exit, the teacher's receiver would bleep, and an LED would tell them which exit the child was approaching, and the name of the child. The system is more elaborate than a buzzer, but it's not a satellite tracking the movement of every child.

Is child safety a problem for your school?

Safety is a subject that we take very seriously. We've already installed CCTV and restricted the number of entrances and exits. We also lock some of the gates at certain hours of the day. However, the idea of putting a bracelet on every child's wrist is not a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. My school clerk has been here for 22 years, and has never known an incident when a child has absconded. The sad thing is that we do have some court orders deterring certain parents from picking up their children from the school. The bracelet scheme would prevent that problem arising. It is better for us to be one step ahead.

How have the parents and teachers reacted?

When I introduced push-button entry to the school six or seven years ago, some parents were up in arms. Nowadays, if a school doesn't have that sort of mechanism they're liable to be criticised for it. I've had a very positive response from parents, a big thumbs-up. The teachers feel that any early-warning system could only help them.

Has the proposed scheme attracted criticism?

I have had letters saying, "Long live the police state!", and, "Why not get the police to pick up the children, it will prepare them for life as criminals!". Sara Reid, the deputy children's commissioner for Wales, had read that I was replacing dinner ladies with technology. She had made the mistake of believing everything that she read in the papers, but she did genuinely want to help, because she thought that we had staff shortages. We don't have a shortage of dinner ladies. It was hard to get them - it's

harder to recruit a dinner lady than a teacher - but we now have two more dinner ladies than we require. We wouldn't be replacing supervisors with the bracelet system - it would just be another tool to make their job easier.

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