Press release

Parents given power of veto on schools’ use of biometric information

New advice to schools will make clear that they will no longer be able to use pupils’ biometric data without parental consent. The advice, launched today for consultation, comes into effect from September 2013.

New advice to schools will make clear that they will no longer be able to use pupils’ biometric data without parental consent. The advice, launched today for consultation, comes into effect from September 2013.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said children’s biometric data was sensitive personal information and parents must have the right to prevent its use by schools and colleges. Pupils also have the right to refuse to participate and these provisions are explained in the guidance.

The advice has been updated to take into account new measures in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which has now gained Royal Assent. It will clearly set out to schools and colleges that use biometric recognition systems, such as fingerprint identification and facial scanning, that:

  • For all pupils in schools and colleges under 18, they must obtain the written consent of a parent before they take and process their child’s biometric data.
  • They must treat the data with appropriate care and must comply with data protection principles as set out in the Data Protection Act 1998.
  • They must provide alternative means for accessing services where a parent or pupil has refused consent.

Frequently asked questions and optional templates for notification and consent will also be included in the advice.

The Government has been clear that parents should have the right to prevent the use of their child’s personal data in automated biometric recognition systems. This commitment was underlined in the Coalition’s manifesto, Our programme for government.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

Biometrics in schools is a sensitive issue. We want schools to be in no doubt of their responsibilities when it comes to young people’s personal data.

I have heard from many angry parents after they have learned that their children’s personal data was being used by schools without their knowledge. The new legislation gives the power back to parents, as it requires parental consent before the information can be collected.

In the age of the internet, identity and the integrity of biometric data are of increasing importance. Young people need to understand from an early age the sensitivity of such personal data. The provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and the accompanying advice to schools will help to reinforce that message.

Some schools and colleges use biometric technologies such as fingerprint identification and facial scanning. These may be used to record attendance, grant access to libraries and to process cashless payments. The benefits to schools include site safety and the speed and ease of access to services.

The consultation is aimed at proprietors, governing bodies, head teachers, principals and staff. The Department wants schools and colleges to be able to accommodate the new duties without increasing the burden on them. The consultation seeks feedback on the clarity of the Department’s advice ahead of its final publication later in the year. It runs for 12 weeks and closes on 3 August 2012.

Further Education Minister John Hayes said:

It is absolutely right that what we do in schools is consistent with the approach in colleges and, in that spirit, I welcome this consultation.

Notes to Editors

  1. The consultation on the draft advice is available on the consultations pagesof the Department for Education’s website.

  2. The Department for Education is providing the advice for schools, sixth form colleges and 16 - 19 Academies. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will provide advice to FE institutions with under-18 students. Please contact the BIS press office on 020 7215 5982 for more information on its advice.

Enquiries

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.