Feeds

School fingerprinters say they don't grab teaching cash

Put their hands up over 80/20 rule

Seven Steps to Software Security

Firms supplying fingerprint scanners to UK schools have put the national procurement authority in the right over whether their biometric components are being bought using funding set aside for teaching software.

Parents campaigning against their children's fingerprints being taken have been worried that teaching funds are being used for the purchase of the equipment that takes their dabs.

BECTA (The British Educational and Communications Technology Agency) told The Register last week that e-Learning credits - central government funding intended to help schools buy teaching software - could be used to buy fingerprinting systems under an allowance in the rules.

For every £1,000 a school spends on teaching software using e-Learning credits, an 80/20 rule allows them to spend £200 on associated odds and ends. Schools are allowed to buy software to manage their libraries using e-Learning credits, so they could use the 80/20 rule to buy the biometric scanners that go with them, BECTA educational content executive director Dave Hassell said.

But he did not have a tally of what specific items had been sold: "The Department [for Education and Skills] has a scheme for auditing expenditure," he said. The DfES funds the e-Learning credit programme.

Two key suppliers of school library systems have insisted they have not supplied fingerprint equipment via e-Learning credits because they use the 80/20 rule to supply other associated components.

Micro Librarian Systems and Softlink Europe have between them supplied fingerprint scanners to over 5,000 schools in Britain. Yet these biometric components are a gimmicky sideline to their core technology, which is the sale of computer systems that tie the management of library stock into the national curriculum - making books interesting to kids.

Micro Librarian Systems managing director Andy O'Brien said: "Yes, they have an 80/20 rule. But our [basic] hardware already takes up that 20 per cent. The biometrics are never included. It's always in an optional module."

Junior Librarian, the MLS system, comes with a bar code reader to scan books, at £95, and is normally sold with a pack of 6,000 bar codes to stick on the books, at £20 per 1,000 - which brings the basic non-educational hardware up close to the limit for a system that's sold at around £1,000.

Paul Dhesi, sales and marketing director of Softlink Europe, which supplies the Alice library system, said: "Eighty per cent is taken by the software and the rest is taken up largely by the scanner and labels they need to get the library up and running."

The fingerprint modules of the library systems are used in place of the swipe cards or names that pupils would normally use to take out library books and are said by suppliers to be popular with pupils. Campaigners against the use of such technology say it gets them used to casually handing over their biometrics for trivial purposes and consumes the trust that characterises normal human society.

MLS and Softlink are the only two of about 1,000 accredited e-Learning suppliers The Register knows to supply fingerprinting systems.

BECTA said it did not know how many more there were on the books. Other leading suppliers of school technology with e-Learning accreditations resell the biometric components of other firms. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Delaware pair nabbed for getting saucy atop Mexican eatery
Burrito meets soft taco in alleged rooftop romp outrage
LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy
Why, we might as well have been buying AIR
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.