Friday, January 18, 2013

Biometrics at Blacon

Blacon High School, West Cheshire, UK, implemented a fingerprint biometric catering system in June last year, 2012.

A letter was sent out Tuesday 12th June telling parents that the system would be going 'live' the following Thursday of the next week, 21st June.  With Blacon High School taking the children's biometrics on Monday 18th June.

That gave parents just 3 - 4 working days to read the letter (we parents do not always read letters the day we get them), do some research into biometrics in schools (which throws up a myriad of issues) and contact the school if they did "not want your child to be included in the system".

Mmmm... a hurried state of affairs here it seems.  Blacon High School's speedy communication in relation to biometric registration is very similar to how other schools have operated.
In most instances of parents contacting this blog and the Leave Them Kids Alone site, this type of hurried biometric implementation has also been experienced.  One could argue that this method allows less time for parental objection, so that a higher, more covert, proportion of pupil biometric take up is ensured.

Certainly in my experience more than 3 working days notice is commonly given for normal school activities, dates to be put in diaries, to allow consent for school trips, food tasting, swimming, collection of monies, vaccinations, sports days, etc.

Not so in this instance.

Understandably some parents and the wider community were shocked at the notion of schools taking, storing and processing their children's biometrics - and at Blacon High School's speedy implementation of the fingerprint biometric system.

This resulted in articles and letters in the local papers with parents contacting political parties for support and accountability.  Parents have taken legal advice, set up a Facebook Group "Refuse to use" and are contacting the wider community to spead awareness and gather support against the biometric system.

Apart from all the privacy and civil liberties issues surrounding children submitting their biometrics for school functions, as this blog has detailed before, the question has to be asked:

Why would a school with 449 pupils (see 6th March  2012 Ofsted Inspection) buy a biometric system in 2012 when come September 2013 all UK schools have to by law, as detailed in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, collect one parental signature per child to enable the school to take and process a child's biometrics?

Why is there no mention of the new biometric system on Blacon High School's website or their Data Protection Register entry?  See the Information Commissioner's Office quote about the register "The main purpose of the public register is transparency and openness".

Not only does Blacon High School have to collect one parent's signature in order to collect a child's biometric data but the school has to be seen to make an effort to contact both parents.  In Blacon High School's case 998 parents for the new cashless catering system and the school need to also have in place a duplicate, alternative system for those parents and children who do not consent.

How efficient is that a spend of our UK tax payers monies?  Two systems.  A bad school management decision? Who is accountable?

On a lighter note...

What is betting that Blacon High School give parents more than 3 - 4 working days to give their written consent in order for the school to run their newly purchased biometric system?   If one child's biometric data resides on Blacon High School's biometric system without a signed parental consent form come September 1st 2013, the school will be breaking the law,

I suspect there may be a few eyes watching how Blacon High School complies with the forthcoming enforceable legislation over the coming months.  I think more to come on this.

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