Parents given power of veto on schools’ use of biometrics

Parents given power of veto on schools’ use of biometrics

education.gov.uk

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

Press notice
Press notice date: 15 May 2012
Updated: 15 May 2012

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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.

Half of free schools still negotiating sites for autumn opening, minister says

Half of free schools still negotiating sites for autumn opening, minister says

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire was one of the first batch of free schools to open

Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire, formerly a fee-paying school, was one of the first batch of free schools to open. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Half of the free schools opening this autumn are still negotiating over premises, an education minister has admitted. Despite many having made provisional offers of places for September, only about 35 of the 70 schools have written confirmation from the land or lease owner that they can use their proposed building, and a few have yet to find a site.

The information was divulged by Nick Gibb, the schools minister, in response to a parliamentary question by Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary. Gibb said “around half” of the free schools due to open this autumn or shortly afterwards had a “confirmed” site, while a “large majority” of the rest were still negotiating contracts for their buildings.

Some 70 free schools are expected to open in September or shortly afterwards – almost three times as many as opened last year. This time last year, fewer than half of those opening last September had confirmed their sites, Gibb said. Of the 24 free schools that opened last September, nine were initially in temporary premises.

However, Labour said the revelation would worry parents and was proof that one of the coalition’s key reforms was “in disarray”.

Free schools are state-funded primaries and secondaries started by parents, teachers, charities and private firms. The policy, inspired by similar initiatives in Sweden and the US, is one of the government’s main education reforms and is designed to raise standards and increase competition in the state sector.

Free schools are allowed greater freedom over the timings of the school day, teachers’ pay and the subjects they teach. They are accountable to central government rather than their local authority, in the same way as academy schools.

Twigg said parents would fear that the coalition’s “approach to new schools is too much of a gamble”.

The New Schools Network, a charity that works closely with the Department for Education to provide advice on setting up free schools, urged the government to rethink the way in which schools find appropriate buildings. Natalie Evans, the charity’s chief operating officer, said some free schools had to postpone their openings because they had been unable to find suitable premises.

“Securing a site does appear to be the single most challenging issue for free school groups once they have been approved,” she said. “We believe the government needs to think again about the whole process of finding a site and who actually carries out that role, as what was fit for purpose for a couple of dozen of free schools will not work for the hundreds that are now coming forward.”

Those involved in the Greenwich free school, a secondary school opening this September in south-east London, told the Guardian that finding a suitable building had been challenging. The school may require an interim site while renovation work is carried out on its premises – the former living quarters for nurses of the Royal Herbert hospital.

Louise Buckley, a governor of the Greenwich free school, said the group had also looked at a former rifle factory but found that the modifications required to the building would have been too expensive.

John Simes, founder of Collingwood Learning, an education consultancy which helped the Greenwich free school find its premises, said obtaining a building had been fraught and stressful.“The time frame is short … It can take up to two years to find a building which can sometimes bring you near to the point at which the school needs to open.”

Zenna Atkins, chief executive officer of consultancy Wey Education, anticipated that “quite a few” of the free schools expected to open in September would be in temporary premises at first.

The Tories’ star teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, has had to delay the opening of her free school. Birbalsingh gave a blistering speech to the Conservative party conference in 2010 in which she attacked dumbed-down standards in exams and “chaos” in classrooms. She had planned to open a secondary school, the Michaela community school, in Tooting, south London, this September, but failed to secure her preferred location. The school may open next year instead.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said the government was working closely with free school groups to “help realise their vision of creating great new schools with high standards and strong discipline – in response to local demand”.

Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, says minister

Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, says minister

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Nick Gibb, the schools minister

Nick Gibb, the schools minister. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA

Teachers are expected to solve too many of society’s problems, the schools minister Nick Gibb has said.

In a speech to the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Gibb criticised lobby groups for saying schools could help tackle a growing number of issues.

He said children were now more aggressive and more likely to grow up in “fragmented families” without boundaries, but the answer was not to “fill the school curriculum with all the social issues that pressure groups want us to put [in the school day]”.

“It seems that the first answer of many to almost any problem in society is to give a duty to schools to tackle it, be it obesity, teenage pregnancy or knife crime,” he said. “It feels like every other week I am presented with proposals from one well-meaning group or another to add something ‘socially desirable’ to the curriculum.”

Gibb said one lobby group had asked him to make pilates compulsory for pupils. “We could easily fill up the school curriculum with all the social issues that many pressure groups want us to put in the curriculum. Then there would be no time left for the academic subjects that need to be taught,” he said. “My view is that the best way for schools to tackle social problems… is to make sure children leave school well-educated. That is the best way out of poverty.”

In an ATL poll of 1,292 primary and secondary teachers and college lecturers, 73% said their job was damaging their health and wellbeing, and a quarter said they had taken sick leave from work since September.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said the demands placed on those working in schools and colleges was rising. “It is not surprising that so many teachers and lecturers are considering leaving the profession. They are having to cope with endless government initiatives, Ofsted inspections and pressure … to get pupils through tests.”

Teachers have warned that coalition plans to pay teachers according to where they live could lead to lower salaries for those who teach arts, and for primary school teachers.

George Osborne, the chancellor, said in his budget statement last month that he wanted to see public sector pay “more responsive to local pay rates” to help the private sector grow in economically depressed parts of the UK.

A poll of 791 teachers by ATL found that 53% expected this would lead to their salaries being linked to the age group of children they taught, and 62% thought it would result in maths and science teachers being paid the most.

400,000 Pupils Miss Month Of School

400,000 Pupils Miss Month Of School

BBC |March 28, 2012

By Angela Harrison BBC News correspondent

Nick Gibb, Schools Minister: “Missing a month of school is a significant amount”

Figures show 400,000 children were persistently absent from England’s schools in the past year and missed about one month of school each.

The government statistics show a small rise in the number of pupils skipping school without permission, but a drop in overall absence rates.

Overall absence rates, which include sickness, fell from 6% to 5.8%.

About 62,000 youngsters missed sessions without permission on a typical day in the last academic year.

There was a small rise – 0.1 of a percentage point – in the truancy rate – which measures absences where no permission has been given and children are not sick.

This now stands at 1.1% – a level which has stayed roughly the same in recent years.

There was a small increase in the numbers of children missing school for family holidays.

This accounted for 9.5% of all absence – compared with 9.3% the previous year.

The figures show that authorised absence fell to 4.7% in 2010-11, from 5% the year before.

Illness remains the main reason for children missing school, accounting for 58.7% of time missed.

Ministers are trying to crack down on pupils missing school, saying they are losing valuable time from their education.

Fines for parents

Schools Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the downward trend in absence but said he was very concerned about children who persistently missed school.

“A hard core of almost 400,000 pupils still missed at least a month of school. We should not underestimate the impact of this on their future prospects,” he said.

“The effect that poor attendance at school can have on a child’s education can be permanent and damaging. Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and maths, than those who are persistently absent.”

Data also released by the government shows that more parents are being fined because their children are failing to attend school.

In total, 32,641 penalty notices were issued in 2010-11, up from 25,657 the year before. Of these, 7,902 went unpaid.

One In Seven Pupils Miss Out On First Choice Secondary School

One in seven pupils miss out on first choice secondary school

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Schoolchildren in classroom

About 74,000 children who applied to start secondary school in September did not get a place at their first choice school. Photograph: Rex Features

Around one in seven children in England missed out on a place at their first preference secondary school this year, official figures show.

Statistics published by the Department for Education reveal that 14.7% of the nearly 504,000 11-year-olds who applied to start secondary school this September did not get into the schools their parents wanted.

This is the equivalent of about 74,000 11-year-olds –5,000 fewer than last year. The slight improvement is in part due to 1.7% fewer applications, although the number of places has remained the same.

Inner London had the lowest proportion of pupils getting their first choice school – 65.8% – while outer London was marginally higher at 68.4%. The north-east of England had the highest proportion of first preference offers at 95.1%.

In some parts of London, competition was particularly tough. Just 53.5% of 11-year-olds in Wandsworth, south London, got their first preference. In Hammersmith and Fulham, in west London, and Southwark, in central London, the figures were 54.4% and 55.9% respectively.

Families were told at the start of this month whether their child had a place. Across the country, 95.9% were offered a place at one of the three schools they listed as their preferred choices. This is a rise of 0.3 percentage points on last year and continues a rising trend.

The number of secondary school pupils under 16 has been in decline since 2004 and is expected to decrease further until 2016.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said parents faced an extremely competitive and stressful process for securing a place for their children. “We want to ease this pressure by creating more good school places, which is the driver behind all our reforms to the education system.”

Gibb said the government was allowing the best schools to expand and the growth of academies and free schools meant parents had a wider choice of good schools.

New Award To Raise University Aspirations Of All Pupils

New award to raise university aspirations of all pupils

education.gov.uk

Press notice
Press notice date: 15 March 2012
Updated: 15 March 2012

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today announced a new national award scheme to recognise the top achievers in every secondary school in England – and those showing great potential.

He said that the “Dux” – Latin for leader or champion – would help raise the aspirations of all pupils, including those from less affluent backgrounds, to go to university, including our top higher education institutions. A similar scheme, also called Dux, already exists in schools in Scotland.

The award, open to all maintained secondary schools, will see teachers selecting a Year 9 pupil as their Dux. They will be rewarded with a visit to one of the 20 current Russell Group universities.

The Russell Group represents leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining high-quality research, outstanding teaching and education, and excellent links with business and the public sector.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

This is an opportunity for schools to celebrate success, and to develop and reward high performing pupils.

Teachers may decide to choose pupils who might not be at the top of the class but who have outstanding potential to become high achievers. These could include children whose families may traditionally not have gone to higher education. They may wrongly assume that university is something ‘other people’do.

Visiting any of these great educational institutions, and seeing first-hand the possibilities that exist there, will open pupils’ eyes to an exciting world in which they can not only take part, but thrive.

Nick Gibb added:

Our world-class universities are for all those with good qualifications and real promise – not just the few. They already do a great deal to increase access to higher education and run extensive outreach programmes offering a wide range of opportunities for school pupils.

This is about ensuring that schools are playing their part in promoting excellence and in supporting pupils, including from disadvantaged backgrounds, to aim for prestigious universities.

I am delighted that so many leading universities are committed to the programme.

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

Russell Group universities already pump millions into a range of schemes to attract young people from non-traditional backgrounds. Many of our universities run successful summer schools and work with local schools – including those where there is little history of pupils progressing to research-intensive universities.

Too few pupils from some state schools get the right grades in the right subjects to apply to leading universities but there is also evidence that even with good grades state school students are much less likely to apply to top universities than those at equivalent independent schools.  So we hope this scheme will help raise the aspirations not only of Dux winners but all other bright teenagers at their schools and make sure they are thinking about their options at a younger age.

We are delighted to be offering bright prospective students the opportunity to come and meet our students and lecturers and have taster sessions. All of our universities look forward to welcoming the winners and their teachers and helping to build long term working relationships so that all young people – whatever their background or school type – know that a Russell Group university could be within their grasp.

We’re ready to offer all top achievers – whether or not they win the Dux – the chance of a place: we need their teachers or advisors to persuade them to apply. Wherever you’re from, with the right grades, attitude and potential, you have a good chance of getting into a Russell Group university. So if there are pupils out there who don’t manage to win but are still interested we would urge them to find out about general open days and other activities for school pupils’ on university websites.

Similar awards already exist in a number of other countries, including Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Case study

At Imperial College London, Dux prize winners will be given the chance to take part in three activities around the future of energy. They will work with current students and researchers on carbon capture and storage solutions, explore fuel cell technology that could power high-performance low-emission cars, and experiment with new solar cell technology that could make solar energy cheap and accessible for all. Prize winners will then come together to discuss how the science, technology and engineering activities they have been working with can help deal with climate change and energy sustainability.

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