Scottish Daily Mail
SCHOOLS IN NEW BIG BROTHER DATA ROW
Anger as teachers share pupils’ personal details – including wealth of their parents
INTIMATE details of pupils’ private lives are being shared among teachers in the latest Big Brother storm to hit Scottish schools.
Information about children’s sexuality, personal opinions and even how wealthy their families are have been entered into a database that can be viewed by teachers on their laptops. The move has been backed by SNP ministers, who believe it will help tackle the growing problem of bullying in our classrooms.
But Dr Stuart Waiton of Abertay University in Dundee said last night that the new database smacked of ‘Big Brother in the classroom’.
The senior sociology lecturer added: ‘It’s a concern that teachers and education departments are becoming increasingly preoccupied with the minutiae of pupils’ private lives.
‘This scheme appears to be part of the Named Person framework, which focuses on the vague idea of
wellbeing and puts the state in charge of assessing and monitoring it.
‘But it only encourages teachers to behave as quasi-social workers or therapists. They would be far better off focusing on the job of educating students rather than acting as Big Brother in the classroom.’
The ‘pupil-profiling’ scheme is being piloted at Wallace High School in Stirling as part of the Scottish Government’s national bullying strategy. Ministers believe pupils’ personal information will help teachers decide whether a child is more likely to be a bully – or a victim.
Wallace High has set up a scheme in which pastoral notes on pupils are distilled into mini data packages that are then circulated to teachers.
The pilot project allows staff to view updated digests of every child’s ‘story’ on their laptops ahead of each lesson.
The Government says the new approach will ‘identify trends’ and that its success will be measured by computer analysis of the data.
But Alison Preuss of the Scottish Home Education Forum branded the scheme ‘petty statism’. She said: ‘This will actually stand in the way of teachers developing good relationships and empathy with pupils, which is the key to beating bullying.
‘Officially labelling children as victims and bullies and digitally sharing that informa insidious tion helps nobody, particularly when it may be inaccurate or just staffroom gossip.
‘Gathering sensitive personal data and handing it round is becoming a disturbing obsession of Scotland’s public sector.
‘What business is it of schools how much money a child’s parents earn or who a teenager is attracted to?
‘This scheme opens the door to intrusive, data-profiling and social engineering, all justified on the flimsiest of grounds. I would be shocked if this is lawful.’
In a case study for the Equality and Human Rights Commission – which is highlighting the scheme as an example of good practice – Wallace High headmaster Scott Pennock said: ‘At a glance, staff can get a sense of the composition of the class in front of them. The system will flag up any pastoral notes so teachers can see that this young person’s maybe got a family situation or concerns around a bullying issue.
‘Our model is to have proactive programmes that negate bullying issues as fully as possible. It’s about holistic wellbeing and trying to put programmes in place that help to deal with those issues.
‘If teachers don’t have the information, or we don’t share it with them effectively, then they can’t do anything about it.’
Scottish Tory education spokesman Liz Smith said: ‘It is essential that any data held is strictly in line with legislation and that every parent and pupil knows exactly what categories of data are being held by the school.’
Griff Ferris of campaign group Big Brother Watch said: ‘Children make mistakes and should be allowed to do so without being blacklisted. Profiling them could have an unfair and long-lasting effect on their lives.’
But Stirling Council denied it was ‘profiling’ pupils. A spokesman said: ‘The system simply streamlines an existing tool, enabling individual class teachers and the school as a whole to provide any necessary education for young people or staff development.
‘Wallace High’s approach has already allowed teachers to address early signs of bullying identified in class groups.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We welcome the approach taken by Wallace High to develop an anti-bullying policy promoting a proactive approach to prevention and supporting pupils’ health and well-being.’
Comment – Page 16
‘I would be shocked if this is lawful’