Touring the sixth forms, I am shocked, all over again. Fifteen minutes in, and I think, Crikey, your world changes quickly. Much quicker than mine, where there are constant truths, break them at your peril.
In schools, I discover there are new boundaries pushed beyond last week's boundaries, and no-one seems to pull a face, let alone say a word.
'It's just a thumb' says the deputy head, wearily, to Squirrel's question and incoherent outrage.
I stay quiet, but I think, Really? Just a thumb? Either you are utterly deluding yourself regarding the rights and privacies of children, or you don't give a toss how this society's running. Um, is that moral spinelessness or indolence? In either case, I wonder if being a deputy head, responsible for the education of 940 future citizens, should be your chosen career.
'It's just a thumb' covers access, library, food, resources, equipment, attendance.
My bet is, the school has no idea where this data goes. They collect for 'an immediate purpose', then supinely hand over your child-data to A.N.Other outside company (oh, is it Capita by any chance?).
In a double betrayal, they thus teach the nation's youth that if they want anything in life, just hand over your finger print, your you, your unique DNA, whatever's requested, say nothing, then stuff can be yours, and this is normal. Everyone does it. What's your problem? One generation and your country (aka Capita?) has the entire population mashed in a computer's jaw.
Well, Mr Just-a-thumb was pressed to admit that a student can, if they really really really protest, say No.
But he made that act - saying 'No' - feel like you'd be a 21st century Cranmer, on trial for treason and heresy. Maybe everyone who's normal reserves a special mode of alternative address for people like you, where your days will be made that bit more difficult. Until you say Yes.
So we come home and immediately poke about the law because we cannot trust the school, the government guidance, popular opinion or anything from the lips of Mr Just-a-thumb.
We find the situation is, presently, unambiguous. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. And from the Information Commissioner's Office*:
'There will be no circumstances in which a school or college can lawfully process, or continue to process, a pupil’s biometric data without having notified each parent of a child and received the necessary consent after the new duties come into effect'
'The written consent of at least one parent must be obtained before the data are taken from the child and used'
'Schools and colleges must not process the biometric data of a pupil (under 18 years of age) where:
a) the child (whether verbally or non-verbally) objects or refuses to participate in the processing of their biometric data;
b) no parent has consented in writing to the processing; or
c) a parent has objected in writing to such processing, even if another parent has given written consent.
'Schools and colleges must provide reasonable alternative means of accessing services for those pupils who will not be using an automated biometric recognition system.'
Just in case you're reading, Squirrel. xx
*Protection of Biometric Information of Children in Schools, Advice for proprietors, governing bodies, head teachers, principals and school staff, December 2012