West Midlands schools now recording pupils' fingerprints

Sandwell | News | Published:

Dozens of schools across the West Midlands are recording the fingerprints of thousands of children, prompting criticism from a civil liberties group.

Big Brother Watch said 56 schools out of 162 who responded to a request under the Freedom of Information Act confirmed they were using biometric technology.

Between them schools using the technology have 51,820 pupils on the roll. It allows pupils to use fingerprints for things such as taking out library books or paying for lunch without cash.

Big Brother Watch today declined to reveal which schools had confirmed they were using biometric technology, stating it would be too difficult to break the figures down.

However, a similar request made by the Express & Star to councils a year ago revealed at least nine schools in Wolverhampton had the technology.

Wolverhampton City Council said Coppice Performing Arts Secondary School, Highfields Science Specialist Secondary, Kings Church of England Secondary, Wednesfield High School all used biometric data.

Heath Park Academy, Moseley Park Academy, Smestow Secondary, South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy and St Edmund's Catholic Secondary also used it for 'cashless catering' so that children could record what they are having for lunch. The council said it was not mandatory for children to provide biometric data while schools followed national guidelines laid down by the Information Commissioner's Office.

The government changed the law last year to allow parents to opt out of giving their children's biometric data. Councils in Walsall, Dudley, Staffordshire and Sandwell said they did not have information on the use of biometric data.

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

A Department for Education spokesperson said:"It is right 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.

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