Thursday 18 July 2019

Pupils' PPS numbers to be held until they turn 30

Minister for Education & Science Jan O'Sullivan.
Minister for Education & Science Jan O'Sullivan.

Brian Byrne

A CENTRALISED database which will store the PPS numbers of primary school pupils until they reach the age of 30 has been described as "excessive".

The Department of Education has asked schools to submit pupils' information to a new Primary Online Database (POD) and stated that the information will be shared with a number of State bodies.

The database will replace the National School Annual Census, helping with inter-school transfers and the movement of data from primary to post-primary schools.

The information includes each pupil's full name, date of birth and address, and optionally their ethnicity and religion.

Controversy erupted when it emerged this data will also be provided to other bodies, including the Department of Social Protection, the HSE and Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Solicitor and digital rights expert Simon McGarr said that parents needed to have more information about the new database and how it will work.

He called for further debate and reflection before the new plan was implemented.

Mr McGarr also criticised the length of time for which data will be stored.

"This is a database intended for use in relation to primary school children, and they are holding it until they are 30.

"I feel that is excessive," he said.

In a statement, the Department of Education said the database had been introduced with backing from the National Parents Council and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO).

A spokesman for Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan (inset) said: "A key need has emerged in recent years for an individualised database of pupils in primary schools.

"As pupils enter school and progress through first and second level it is vital to record information on numbers entering, transferring, dropping out as well as completing at each level."

He said that this type of database has been in place at pre-primary, post-primary and third level.

"It is an extremely valuable resource in monitoring the progress of all students through the education system, including vulnerable subgroups," he said.

"The department takes the protection of pupils' data very seriously. Schools may only access the data of students currently enrolled in their schools.

"It is departmental policy that only a small number of staff have access rights to view the personal data of students."

The department said the system has already been piloted with a selection of institutions.

Schools now have until the end of March to submit information for the database.

Irish Independent

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