U.K. NATIONAL IDENTITY SCHEME FOR CHILDREN
John Clare, the Education Correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, recently received and responded to a letter from a school governor disturbed by an extension of the annual school census. Introduced in 1996, this census has been used by the British Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to annually collect school statistics. Until this year, the census has been anonymous so that no information could be traced back to any one particular pupil.
However, this is set to change. Each child is now given an identity number, which enables any information gathered to be traced back to individual students by name and address. There was no debate in Parliament about this change the decision was announced in a parliamentary answer on February 5, 2001 by Estelle Morris, who said that the DfES “intended to create a central pupil database” of all children in the state sector and that they intended to start the backbone of the database after January 2002.
According to the statute, it is mandatory to answer the extra information now requested by the census, so that any refusal is against the law. The DfES has also claimed the right to pass this information on to third parties. Under the Data Protection Act, such information could not normally be passed on without the consent of the pupils or their parents, and parental consent would have to be sought for such data to be collected in the first place.
John Clare also reports that the DfES is compiling a database under the “Connexions” scheme, which has “the power to collect personal information … from a wide range of sources, including the police, the probation services, health authorities, social services and benefits agencies.” Concern has been expressed about the possibility of linking this with the School Census database.
ARCH – Action on Rights for Children in Education – is campaigning on this and similar issues. The ARCH web site includes information and analysis, as well as links to other sites.
[Editors note: These measures, and the stealth with which they have been introduced, should be alarming to British families and should be a concern for all citizens of free nations as technology increasingly allows governments to network and database their citizenry.]
Article contributed by Robert Higginson