Nurseries fit electronic tags to children

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The Independent Online

Thousands of schoolchildren as young as three are being fitted with electronic security tags used to monitor psychiatric patients as fears over child abductions and safety increase.

Thousands of schoolchildren as young as three are being fitted with electronic security tags used to monitor psychiatric patients as fears over child abductions and safety increase.

As many as 100 schools have now provided children with these new devices. They have been adapted from tags used on clothes to prevent high street theft.

Childcare groups and charities have accused security companies of trying to cash in on schools' fears over pupil safety. "More and more high-tech security options are coming into the nursery market. This is led by security companies seeing a marketing opportunity rather than demand from the sector," said Rosemary Murphy, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association. "Nursery managers should think carefully about their nursery's needs before they commit to expensive investment."

Electronic tags are already used to monitor mental patients in hospitals and offenders on probation.

In schools, children are told to carry them in their pockets or play overalls. The device emits a high-pitched bleep when the child passes electronic receiver posts at school exit gates. The system costs between £2,000 and £3,000 and a disposable tag costs between £2 and forty pence.

Harvey Brooks, a teacher at Belhaven, a council-run nursery in Glasgow which has introduced the tags for its 140 pupils, said the school had raised the money for the tags through fund-raising.

"I see it as just another practical measure in the same way that we cover up electrical sockets with plastic," he said. "It's not a substitute for vigilance, care or attention."

Education charity Kidscape said teachers would be taking their "eyes off the ball" if tagging was introduced in schools. "There should be no need for tagging in nurseries," said Michele Elliott, director of Kidscape. "I think the idea of tagging up little kids would make me wonder if the nursery was that safe. We would do better to teach them that they shouldn't just run out through doors."

The device is made by Checkpoint Systems who said there has been an increase in demand since the abduction of a baby from a hospital earlier this month.

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