Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching union slams "luddite" opponents of pupil fingerprinting

Fingerprint72 The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have claimed that the much-needed controls on biometric systems and CCTV in schools are a “Luddite Solution”.

The new legislation will require the written permission of both parents, plus any other person with parental responsibility for a child. Without this, schools will be unable to use a biometric system on children.

ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said:
"ASCL completely agrees that parents should have a say in whether their children take part in biometric systems in schools, and they should have the right to opt out if they have concerns or are opposed in principle.”

“However, if the bill goes through, the hoops that schools and colleges will need to go through to use these systems will be completely disproportional. The reality is that in the next few years, we will be using finger recognition to log onto our laptops. This is the future and it is already in one in every three secondary schools. To enact this legislation is a Luddite reaction and a huge backward step."

A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) said:

"We've got no problem with heads using the latest biometrics to speed up lunch queues or registration - that's their choice. The bottom line is that parents should have the right to opt their children out if they are concerned about its use. Biometrics is always a sensitive issue - the onus should be on schools to explain and persuade parents of these systems' merits. You can't assume families will just go along with whatever a head says, when it comes to using and storing their children's personal data. It's common sense that alternative systems are available for those who those that want it."

Biostore Solutions claim that in the schools which use biometrics, 99.8% of parents have no objection to it being used on their child.

This seems an extremely suspicious statistic, especially considering it comes from a company with a huge conflict of interest.

 In fact, the statistic does not come from a survey of parents; instead it is based on the number of pupils who refused to take part in the system. Most pupils will have been subjected to a huge amount of pressure to accept the system from teachers who they are taught to respect.

Without this legislation, schools will install hugely intrusive biometric systems and CCTV cameras to monitor the movement of children without the permission of parents, who may not even know about the systems.

 The government is right to make these changes, and should ignore the complaints of the ASCL.