Page last updated at 18:17 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 19:17 UK

School fingerprint system delayed

The school says the system will help with stock control

A Devon school has delayed the introduction of fingerprinting to pay for meals after some parents objected about privacy and lack of consultation.

Letters were sent in September about the scheme at King Edward VI Community College in Totnes, Devon.

They said the end of cash payments on 2 November would make the meals system more efficient.

The school is now offering the option of Pin numbers instead of fingerprints and has written again to parents.

With hindsight we should have had a longer consultation period
Catering manager Simon Rothwell

Parent Michael Wells told BBC News: "The school completely shunned consultation with children and parents on this very sensitive issue."

He said the system "not only invades privacy and erodes trust in our children but also has no proven benefits".

He added: "Some parents think the cashless system is a good idea because their child often loses their lunch money.

"If this is the case then a simple optional voucher or smart-card system would solve this problem."

The fingerprint system, which is already in use at several other Devon schools, converts pupils' fingerprints to a number which is unique to each student.

Stock control

A new letter is going out to parents by mail rather than via pupils setting out the school's case for the dual biometric and Pin system.

Catering manager Simon Rothwell said: "The biometric system helps with stock control, and enables me to see what food we are selling.

"There are no records of pupils' fingerprints and no storage."

All data would be on a secure server.

He said that if parents agreed with the dual system it could be in place by mid November.

"With hindsight we should have had a longer consultation period, but there are similar systems in place at other schools."

He would not say how much the new system cost, but it had been met from a government grant to increase the uptake of school meals.

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