Concern over personal info database for every primary student

Concern is being expressed about a new Primary Online Database being established by the Department of Education.

Under the plan, all children's PPS numbers along with details of their religion and ethnic backgrounds will be included on the database, which the Department said will be used to develop education policy into the future.

Parents of all primary school children are being sent letters outlining how the new POD will work and what information will be stored, the letter states that the information will be kept until the child reaches the age of 30.

Solicitor and digital rights expert Simon McGarr said parents need much more information about the database before it is implemented.

"They themselves say they will be sharing the data with the Department of Social Protection and other agencies," McGarr said.

"If they intend to hold it until the children are 30, that data will be sitting around in a database gradually every year collecting up the personal data of every citizen being educated.

"This is not a small thing - and I think more debate and more reflection by the department is needed."

The Department of Education's website says the scheme "has been thoroughly piloted with a selection of schools" and "extensively discussed with the education partners and management bodies."

It says it will share the information with Social Protection, the HSE, and National Council for Special Education.

The data collected will include:

• First and second names

• PPS number

• Mother's maiden name

• Date of Birth and gender

• Full address

• Mother tongue

• Ethnicity

• Religion

• Irish language exemptions

• Enrolment date, teacher / class details

• Previous school / pre-primary education

• Learning support details

In its documentation, the Department says it is compulsory for parents to register their children. In the event a PPS number is not available for a student, the Department will use the mother's maiden name to look up Department of Social Protection records.

The Department also reports that only information on ethnic and religious background requires the consent of a parent of guardian.

"All other information… was deemed by the Data Protection Commissioner as nonsensitive personal data and therefore does not require written permission from parents for transfer of the information to the Department," the letter to parents says.

The Department claims the database will eliminate the existing annual school census, facilitate transfers between schools, and keep track of students who do not go on to secondary school.

— Additional reporting Dave Molloy

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