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Government database logs children's failures

Wed Feb 13 2008, 16:10

GOVERNMENT PLANS to introduce a database that holds the academic records of every child in the land from the age of 14 until the day they die have come under attack from all quarters.

Going by the track record of our civil service in handling people's personal data, the database might not be wise, representatives of parents, teachers, head masters and the Conservatives said told The Times newspaper today.

But there are possibly more important causes for concern about the database, which will store the academic achievements and failures and give employers access to the information.

"This disregards how people change throughout their lives," Professor Priscilla Alderson, a children's rights expert at the University of London's Institute of Education, told The INQUIRER.

The system could be used to "stigmatise" children with their school records by making them indelible, she said, and presumed that employers had some right to know everything about a person's history.

"Academic records are no indication of future success. There are many reasons for the grades we get: they might reflect the teaching or a personal crisis," she said.

"People who do badly at school often do well later in life. There's a danger that these records prevent change and progress for the better," she added.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of the No2ID campaign group said in a written statement: "Numbered for life and with every black mark against you made public, you’ll never be able to make up for a bad year at school."

“Tag ‘em young and track them for life might work for cattle but it’s not how a fair and just society treats people, especially children. Official CV, unique number or ID card, it’s all just about the state telling you – and others – who you are,” he added.

The Learning and Skills Council, which intends to operate the database, said children would have control over their own Learner Records, deciding who should have access.

"It is not a tracking system and will not include information on exclusions or expulsions. It will only hold factual information such as name, surname, age, postcode, qualifications achieved and courses attended," saids the LSC in a statement.

It said the Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner had approved the scheme.

The Times had reported from a government leak that the plans, to be announced tomorrow, would have the database include records of expulsions and exclusions. It did not say whether it would also note attitude, attendance, detentions, and propensity to daydream. µ


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