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Schools chief pushes Big Brother out of dinner line

Gov purees fingerprints for food policy

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The guidance said: "It may be that some parents and/or pupils will seek to opt out from using the biometric systems. In this case schools may want to build into their plans the option for some pupils to have an alternative means of accessing the same services."

After the DfES U-turn, Morley High School subsequently told You and Yours that it would not refuse dinners to any child after all, even if their parents refused to allow their fingerprints to be scanned in the dinner queue.

Schools minister Jim Knight said on the programme that reports in the media about school fingerprinting "need to be less paranoid".

"The technology is being introduced with a lot of care... those schools that are offering should be explaining that to parents and hopefully then they can be introduced with consent," he said.

However, the earlier DfES guidance Knight endorsed said that schools did not have to seek parents' consent for scanning pupils' fingerprints - they merely needed to involve parents in their decisions.

The DfES sold the benefits of fingerprinting school children to the press when it issued the note. It said children could be processed through the lunch queue more efficiently and cost-effectively, and that children who get free school meals could evade stigmatisation.

It stressed that schools should follow guidelines set out in the Data Protection Act and thus allay parents' concerns, but noted that the Data Protection Act did not specifically address biometric data. Chinese data protection authorities have banned school fingerprint technology under similar laws on the grounds it is disproportionate to the job. ®

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