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MPs condemn school fingerprinting

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Shadow ministers for the Libdems and Conservatives have condemned schools that fingerprint children.

Liberal Democrat shadow education secretary Sarah Teather and Conservative shadow minister for schools Nick Gibb spoke out on Teachers TV. The issue is coming to a head because parents are preparing a case against schools that have installed fingerprinting systems over the summer and started fingerprinting children without their parents' consent.

"They should not be doing this," Gibb said of fingerprinting schools. "They should find another method of identification for borrowing library books."

He said there were serious civil liberties issues about a government that amassed databases of people's fingerprints.

Teather told Teachers TV: "Fingerprinting three year olds to borrow library books is clearly excessive and completely over the top. There's a serious issue here. The government must get some legal advice."

A parent on the programme said her trust in the school had been destroyed after she learned it had taken her child's fingerprints without her permission: "They've taken part of her identity we didn't give permission for," she said.

Headteachers have rejected accusations that they are installing "big brother technology".

Janine Fletcher, a solicitor helping the campaign, said fingerprinting was in breach of the Children's Act, the Human Rights Act, and other laws.

She wants a judicial review to clarify what biometric information schools could take from children and for what purposes.

The Department for Education and Skills said it was "up to schools" what they did, but suggested they should get legal advice from their local authorities about whether they were in breach of the Human Rights Act before they fingerprinted pupils.

They should also inform parents, or get the consent of the child if the child is "mature" enough.

Teachers TV said the Tories had pledged to ban the fingerprinting of children if they were elected, but the Conservative party office said they were merely "not in favour" of children being fingerprinted. ®

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