A NORTH Tyneside school is spending £15,000 on the latest fingerprinting technology to curb bullying at lunchtime. Every child attending Churchill Community College in Howdon, has had their thumb prints scanned ahead of the launch of the new cashless payment system after the half-term break.
The biometric system is designed to reduce bullying in schools and any potential stigma suffered by those receiving free school meals.
Headteacher David Baldwin said: “The system is due to be fully installed and to go live on June 2, the day we return from our summer half-term break.
“We have been using a cashless payment system for a number of years now but the equipment needed upgrading and we felt this was the best option available because it is totally secure and will reduce bullying in school.
“Payment cards or cash can be lost or stolen, but people’s thumbs are individual to them. We wrote to every parent back in March about the plan, giving them the option to discuss any worries or concerns about using fingerprinting technology but we have had no complaints about the scheme.”
Anti-identity card campaigners have warned that taking children’s fingerprints could be the first steps towards “Big Brother” state surveillance.
A spokesman for the group No2Id said: “Our view is that this as a foolish use of local authority funds. It is a pointless use of technology to achieve something which could be done in easier and cheaper ways.
“And it is another sign that the Government is so keen to have children lined up, scanned and fingerprinted for something as mundane as school dinners.
“Schools shouldn’t be responsible for what is essentially very personal data.”
But the manufacturer of the system said it does not store the fingerprints and said there is no danger of a person’s identity being stolen Daniel Cookson of Transact said: “Because a copy of the fingerprint is not stored, but translated into another form, the information wouldn’t mean anything to anyone even if it was stolen no fingerprints could be recreated.
“The intention is to create a secure, safe, cashless environment which will also mean that pupils are less likely to wander to the shops for junk food on their way to and from school.
“Parents are always given the option to opt out.”
Print system to be rolled out
THE fingerprint system is already in operation at a number of schools in the North East, including George Stephenson High School in Killingworth and is due to be rolled out elsewhere, including at St Bede’s in Lanchester, County Durham.
The technology joins several other technological advances that have been introduced into schools and classrooms over recent years, including interactive whiteboards, computer software and electronic registers. Biometrics, although based on the latest fingerprinting technology, does not store the fingerprints taken in any kind of database.
An account can then be created for each child so when they place either of their thumbs on the payment sensor it brings up their individual account details.
Cash can be placed in accounts by children and parents in private and when the thumb print is recognised the amount required is deducted from the account.