Son's school is starting biometric system and we have no say in the matter!

(40 Posts)
flossfour Wed 20-Feb-13 16:37:43

I have been given a letter by my son's school telling me that come Easter, it will be compulsory to use ParentPay's biometric system for all school purchases, including meals. This means there will be an outside company who will now have to fingerprint my son and contain his, and my financial and personal, details in order to work. There has been no hint that this was on the cards, it was just presented as a done deal, without any consultation with parents beforehand.

Does anyone else find this completely creepy and frightening? Is anyone else using this system that can tell me anything about this company? How long before this method will be used for registration?

givemeaclue Wed 20-Feb-13 16:41:56

It will be like this everywhere eventually...its the future!

At least noone can pinch his dinner money!

HumphreyCobbler Wed 20-Feb-13 16:44:33

It makes sense and will save lots of time and energy.

What evil thing do you think will happen?

You do realise that the company won't have his finger prints, don't you?

It stops children losing money for food / being bullied and having it taken. I see no problem with it.

Some more information about how biometrics work is here.

JakeBullet Wed 20-Feb-13 16:50:39

I can understand your concerns but tbh I think this is e future. I am quite relieved that my DS (who can be bullied die to his autism) will be less likely to face being exploited for his dinner money etc.

I don't think the company store the details....just match it to a card number etc.

ggirl Wed 20-Feb-13 16:53:04

why are you worried?

are you a spy?

MisForMumNotMaid Wed 20-Feb-13 16:54:09

DHis a teacher and his school introduced this. He was very concerned about how the details were stored but got reassurances as PP has said.

It works really well especially with bullying/ lost cards etc.

Bert2e Wed 20-Feb-13 16:55:07

Pfb? I think you are being overly paranoid! Have you actually thought about how good the system will be? It really does make life much easier - no more scrabbling about for change in the mornings.

Milliways Wed 20-Feb-13 16:57:39

DS's school have this and there is no more lost money or cards, and you can see what they have bought (slice of Pizza etc - it's all listed!)

You top up from home on-line through a secure-pay system OR they can take cash into the school and get the office to add it to their account, but doing it at home means you can see it credited straight away. Our school only allow cash top-ups on a set day and time per week.

DS takes sandwiches but this means if he forgets, or is just hungry, he can get a snack or meal as I keep a tenner on his account.

School trips etc are also paid for through same account.

Merrylegs Wed 20-Feb-13 17:04:47

Perhaps you will be like the mum of a poor chap in Ds' s class who is also suspicious of the system and so has refused to let her child be registered. As a result he has nothing to eat all day. The teachers took pity on him at Christmas and chipped in for his Xmas lunch.

The system does rather assume that every child has parents who are with it enough to top up the account. Sadly there are a lot of flakey ones that don't.

Merrylegs Wed 20-Feb-13 17:06:37

Also you don't have to store your card details. You can enter them afresh each time. Or send a cheque into school.

Parent pay doesn't store your card details.

Also, I believe that the finger print is not a full print like police would take.

guanosoup Wed 20-Feb-13 17:16:02

It works really well for my ds, who is really good/bad at losing things like cards, letters home etc etc.
As far as I am aware, he has not yet lost his finger, and therefore gets a meal.
I dont have to worry about him losing dinner money, and it seems that the boys who sold cheap sweets at inflated prices at lunch time have lost thier market, as there's minimal cash in school.

Also, if I am flaky enough to forget to top up, they will give him credit for a meal, so he doesn't go without.

arent oayI was really dubious at first, but I do like the system.

My daughters school on the other hand has an online payment system (not parent pay) and quite frankly, its shit.
So we have the morning scrabble for dinnner money every blimming day.
I know what method I prefer...

flossfour Wed 20-Feb-13 17:19:54

FireOverBabylon: Thank you for your reply and link. Please excuse my stupidity but still don't understand why you say company won't have his fingerprints? We have been told that a day has been set aside for all children to place their finger/thumb on a Biometric sensor which will then be stored in the main computer; a computer that another company has outside access to? I know there is a difference, just can't quite get my head around it all!

ggirl: Promise you I'm not a spy!!!!! Just not agile enough!

Merrylegs: Don't worry - not flakey and wouldn't see any child go without a meal, much less my own!

Thank you all for your responses.
Maybe I am being too paranoid and I can understand the bullying side of things. I just wonder if this is the start of something more. Wasn't there uproar when the government wanted to introduce compulsory national ID cards a few years ago?

Just don't feel comfortable with the finality of the way it was presented perhaps?

slambang Wed 20-Feb-13 17:28:26

Our school has this.

They do not store an image of fingerprints. It's stored in an electronic format that cannot be converted back into a fingerprint IYSWIM, like a bar code doen't produce an image of a packet of fishfingers.

They do not store our bank details either. We top up ds's lunch money online and have to enter our card details every time (like any other online shopping).

It's easier and safer than the previous system.

slambang Wed 20-Feb-13 17:33:25

When it was introduced to our school parents had the choice of not allowing their dc's fingerprints being taken and having a pin number instead. A few chose this.

I have just asked ds if anybody still uses the PIN system not biometrics. Not a single person has stuck with the old system. As ds said, 'Why would they? The only reason would be if they didn't have thumbs.'

flossfour Wed 20-Feb-13 17:43:07

Thank you for your explanation of biometrics slambang - much easier to understand!!!!

DeWe Wed 20-Feb-13 21:08:29

I am genuinely interested in what would a child with no hands do. Dd2 has only one hand and we know several children who have neither hand, so it will at some point be an issue for one or more of them, I am sure.

I would hope that it's not rigid as to which digit it is (eg doesn't have to be left hand first finger) so as long as there is a digit they can use that one.

I think the not being able to lose it would be a huge advantage to dd2. grin

TomArchersSausage Wed 20-Feb-13 21:13:54

It was similarly introduced at our school too as a done deal. I huffed and puffed a bit to myself about that at the time, but actually it's been very good and works pretty well, so that's me left with nothing to moan about thengrin .

ravenAK Wed 20-Feb-13 21:18:22

It's all encrypted - you can't turn the data back into a fingerprint!

Ours gives the option of using a 4-digit pin (because the finger scanners are shite & never actually work.)

& you can use Pay Points in local stores if you don't want to use online transfer.

Lots less hassle than constantly scratting around for cash, once it's up & running.

falillas Thu 21-Feb-13 12:44:27

Thankyou flossfour,
I also have concerns as to this new system. As we now live in the so called risk society, what risk is there in this for our children in the future? Who can or will be able to access all this never ending administrative data on us, anyone I should imagine with the expert knowledge, if not now then when? I'm sure this expert knowledge would also be able to turn this code back into a print in some technical way which although beyond me is I imagine not impossible.
What indication have we received as to the commencement of this scheme, hardly any, I've not seen it in the press anywhere, have you? Has there been any debates does anyone know on the enforcement of this system? Where will it end, retinal imaging to enter a classroom? call me old fashioned or just old but I don't like it

Eastpoint Fri 22-Feb-13 08:22:57

I have three friends whose DDs at separate schools use this system. One friend was especially pleased as they have it to enter school buildings and she felt it would prevent unauthorised intruders from being on the school premises.

They have this at DS1's school and I think it's a good idea: no lost or stolen lunch money and we can access a list of what he's been buying if we suspect he's been eating nothing but ice-cream.

There is an opt-out clause with a card as alternative, so people with limb differences could choose to use that instead.

potatoprinter Fri 22-Feb-13 10:06:32

They use this in one of my children's schools but only to clock in children who are late. There was a lot of opposition at the time they brought it in because we live in a multi ethnic are where fingerprints are obviously associated with often negative experiences of policing.

In reality they just convert the fingerprint to a digital code. To be honest your child probably has more personal data on their Facebook pages than could pose a risk by the biometric recognition system. I think it is a good idea, especially given the amount of lost lunch cards (replacement value £5).

I think there are data security risks in schools but this is very low down on the list.

DS1's school has a biometric lunch money system. It's much better than having him lose dinner money all the time.

You know I think there are just more important things to worry about.
No more searching for cash before the school run, no more sending in cheques.
All I had to do was go on-line once and put my details in.
I chose to leave a credit card to top up automatically.
Done.
I can, if I wish, log on and see what he has purchased.

MakeMineALargeRose Fri 22-Feb-13 22:41:42

My dd's school does this using parent pay, I think it's fantastic, no more messing around with change or risking losing money at school. When I was at school I used to buy a mars bar and a packet of 10 cigs, with parent pay I can see exactly what she's eaten everyday and know exactly where my money gone. I've never heard of anyone having an issue, card details aren't stored, it's very user friendly and i can't see what risk it poses. I wish they'd have had this at her last school! You'll be converted in no time once it starts being used.

SanityClause Sat 23-Feb-13 19:11:33

DD1's school have a cashless card system (sQuid) which is quite good, but DD2's school has ParentPay, and it's really good. They can pay with cash, but the queues are much shorter for the cashless checkouts.

I also really like being able to see what she has bought, as I can encourage her to make healthy choices.

DD2 will come home and say, "Mummy, can I have some more money on my finger?" Cute!

I wish DS1's school did it via parent pay. Not because I want to monitor what he's eating or whatever but because it would be easier than giving him cash to put on his account.

boomting Mon 25-Feb-13 01:01:21

I share your unease, and so does Liberty, which gives some useful advice here www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/jul/16/fingerprinted-child-school

The government is banning schools from taking biometric data without parental permission from September this year, so it would seem that your school is trying to get in before that deadline www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9764739/Schools-banned-from-fingerprinting-pupils.html

This indicates that you can indeed refuse to have your son's fingerprints taken www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/education-quandary-can-our-son-refuse-to-join-his-schools-fingerprint-canteen-system-and-still-have-a-hot-meal-at-lunchtime-1832601.html

I would suggest a firm letter to the school so that something is in writing, along with ideally a chat with the form tutor and some strongly worded instructions to your son.

flossfour Mon 25-Feb-13 11:00:07

Boomting: Thank you for those links, very interesting. And I think this is my point of unease: not the fact that they are using this now, it probably doesn't seem like a big deal, but the fact that I am worried this is the start of a very slippery slope. Will my children grow up to think this is all perfectly normal? It seems the introduction of ID cards is not so far a leap. I already feel like I live in a society where everyone is watched constantly. Oh dear, I sound like I will be wearing a tin foil hat in the near future, don't I?? Sorry!

Do you have a nectar card or a Tesco club card OP?

boomting Tue 26-Feb-13 01:14:11

@ArbitraryUsername I'm not really sure how that's relevant - the data collected on spending habits is hardly on a par with biometric data - and let's not forget that you can change your nectar card number, but you can't change your fingerprints.

boomting Tue 26-Feb-13 01:18:23

Probably ought to add that I once worked in a place that decided it wanted to introduce the same technology for clocking in and clocking out. I was leaving anyway, but if they had got their act together and installed it before I was due to leave then I would have gone earlier. It was a pub, not Sellafield FFS! There's really no need for them to be using this sort of data when a pin number or swipe card would do perfectly well instead (and let's not infantilise people, especially adults, with worries about losing cards. If it's important to the child, they invariably look after it well enough. I managed to go through the whole of secondary school without once losing my house keys, so I'm sure others can manage it too).

It is relevant because what the OP seems to be worried about is being constantly watched and monitored (see her last post), which is what you sign up for with a points card like that. Similarly my passport is a means of monitoring my movement. It includes biometrics and a number I can't change.

Chopsypie Tue 26-Feb-13 08:44:51

It may just be me being uneducated (and I'm not being snotty here, I'm genuinely curious) but why is them having his finger print a bad thing?

What possible use is a fingerprint?

MoreBeta Tue 26-Feb-13 09:02:12

Cards get lost and bullying is an issue so yes removing cash from school is a good idea. However, a 4 digit pin would do just the same job.

Why does it have to be biometric scanning of finger prints?

I read a piece on a very good blog a few years ago about this suggesting that getting children programmed to always put their finger in a scanner at school would lead then to accept it more readily in adult life too in future.

I know everyone always say the machine does not store your actual finger print but I can tell you it is only a matter of time before police get a court order to put the scanned details on a database that they can access. They already have a huge amount of DNA data from teenagqers that have never commited a crime but just got swept up in mass arrests outside pubs and clubs whenever there is some street disturbance. You have no right to have it removed and the target is to have over 60% of the 16 - 25 yr olds on the database and once they have that they can pretty much connect all of those records to everyone else in the population through family relations.

These things are always done for our own good but there is a commercial organisation behind this who wil have complete control over the database and how it is used and Govt would find it very useful to have the records as well.

maisiejoe123 Wed 27-Feb-13 17:28:54

I have never heard of this system but what a good idea. No hunting around for money etc etc -

And - I like the idea of complusory ID cards.

ProPerformer Wed 27-Feb-13 17:49:17

I hope we never have it at the school I teach at - Ive tried 5, yes 5 biometric finger scanning machines in my time, (for various things, school library, canteen at workplace I did work experience at,) and 0, yes 0 worked with my fingers!!
Don't know what's wrong with them, if it's my hyperhydrosis or something but they just don't seem to work for me. hmm

INeverSaidThat Wed 27-Feb-13 18:00:42

I think it is a fab idea and I would welcome it.

I am very much in favour of national ID cards. I am not a spy either

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now