Concerns about pupil finger-printing
27 Mar 2009
The leading human rights campaigner, Sami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, has warned that the use of finger-printing in schools may be an invasion of privacy.
Her comments came as she delivered the 3rd annual lecture of the independent charity, the National Education Trust*. Shami Chakrabarti said finger-printing was now being used in schools as a replacement for library cards or instead of tokens for school dinners because it was found to be administratively more convenient. However she said she had serious concerns about the direction this was taking. 'I wonder about the necessity and proportionality of this', she said. She wondered if pupils are 'really giving informed consent', even when parents might give their agreement.
She said she also felt 'horror that all this information might be held on a central government database'.
The Director of Liberty also told the audience of education experts, head teachers, teachers and students that she had 'concerns' about the way some schools were forbidding pupils to wear religious symbols or dress because they conflicted with school uniform rules. She talked of one case where Liberty had taken the school to court over a ban on a Sikh girl wearing a religious bracelet. 'It is bizarre that in 2008 we had to go to the High Court to ensure her right to wear that bracelet'.
Shami Chakrabarti also told the audience that her inspiration for a career in law, pursuing human rights issues, had come from her teacher who, when she was 12, had chosen the novel 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' as the set book.
'I have learnt more about human rights from books and films than from political speeches', she said.
*The National Education Trust is an independent foundation dedicated to improving the quality of education and to closing the achievement gap. I must declare an interest as a trustee. Their website is: www.nationaleducationtrust.net. The full text and audio of the Chakrabarti lecture will be available shortly on the NET website.