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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 15:02 GMT
Anger over pupils database plan
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Officials says people will control who sees their personal data
The government is being urged to scrap a database of all pupils' school records amid data security fears.

Every 14-year-old in England will have their exam results and personal details held on a central database.

They will each be given a lifelong "learner number" - and employers will be able to check their exam results on a tamper-proof "online CV".

Officials insist the system is secure but critics say the government can not be trusted with personal data.

There is also concern the system, which is expected to go online next September, could lead to school records being used against pupils in later life.

Officials denied reports that exclusions and expulsions are to be recorded on the database.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) insisted it was not a "tracking system" and would only use existing information that had already been collected "several times over".

David Russell, national director of resources at the LSC, said: "It will only hold factual information such as name, surname, age, postcode, qualifications achieved and courses attended."

Pupils in English schools already have a learner number but it is currently destroyed when they leave school.

Exam results

Under the Managing Information Across Partners (MIAP) system - to be launched on Thursday by higher education minister Bill Rammell - the number will stay with them until they retire.

It is just a way of making life easier for learners and employers
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

It is meant to allow students to build up a lifelong record of educational participation. It will also allow employers to check the qualifications of people applying for jobs.

People will be able to look up their exam results and other personal details online by entering their unique learner number.

They will be able to correct any factual errors, provided they can prove their identity, but they will not be able to delete records.

They can then give another password to potential employers to allow them to access their exam results - although MIAP says this view "will only display successful achievements".

"It is just a way of making life easier for learners and employers. It is something we think will help people looking for work," a spokesman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said.

He also dismissed security concerns, saying the system was "cast-iron in terms of integrity".

But data security watchdog the Information Commissioner said no database could be totally secure.

A spokesman said: "We have provided advice and assistance to help ensure that this system is watertight and secure - but no system is immune to human error and breaches can and do occur.

"What is important is that there is an ongoing and very close monitoring of this system to ensure there is no breach of the Data Protection Act."

Parents 'smarting'

Conservative education spokesman Michael Gove told The Times: "The government has a terrible track record in managing complex IT programmes.

The ID programme is looking shaky, now another dodgy database emerges
Phil Booth
NO2ID campaign

"Recent events have shown that sensitive personal data in ministers' hands.

"There must be profound worries, not just in terms of civil liberties, but also in terms of the security of young people."

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teachers Associations, said parents were still "smarting" from the recent loss of child benefit data discs - and although a good idea in theory, the MIAP database raised serious security concerns.

"They are not in a position at the moment to launch something that would store yet another massive amount of information about us," she told BBC News.

"I think we have got to take a step back. When I typed MIAP into my computer it came up with Mongolian airlines, and I think Outer Mongolia is probably the best place for this scheme at the moment."

ID card fears

Anti-ID campaigners are also concerned the MIAP scheme could be a way of introducing identity cards through the back door, although this is denied by officials.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID campaign, said: "The ID programme is looking shaky, now another dodgy database emerges.

"The unique numbering of people for life is dangerously close to the core of the National Identity Scheme.

"It means every mistake you make as a child will follow you for life through an official government-assigned number."

'Privacy' threat

Last year, the government put another planned database of children, ContactPoint, on hold pending a security review and changes to the system including its access controls.

ContactPoint is designed for use by child protection agencies.

It holds name, address, date of birth, gender, parental contact information, details of school and any professionals working with the child.

The review was ordered after the loss by HM Revenue and Customs of two discs containing the personal and bank details of 25 million people.

In a separate development, the Conservatives have released research on 13 new powers they say are being sought by the government to gain entry to people's homes.

A Tory spokesman said the powers - which includes the right of officials to break into cars if they suspect the owner is evading road pricing laws - "make a mockery of Gordon Brown's pledge to curtail the threat to liberty and privacy".

SEE ALSO
Child database system postponed
27 Nov 07 |  Education
Concern at pupil data microchips
23 Nov 07 |  Education
Data minister 'not told of discs'
26 Nov 07 |  UK Politics

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