Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has called on the Education Minister to clarify whether schools will be penalised if parents refuse to grant permission for their children’s information to be stored on the Department’s Primary Online Database. In response to a Parliamentary Question on the issue, Minister Jan O’Sullivan states that from 2016/17 academic “it is intended that teacher allocations and capitation grants will be made on the basis of POD data”.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “I am seriously concerned that the Minister is using the threat of capitation and teacher number reductions as a means to force parents to hand over their children’s personal details for this new centralised database. Schools already have the necessary information and documentation regarding students on file, but this new database encompasses students’ racial profile, psychological assessments, medical and disability needs, religion, and PPS number. This information will now be retained by the department until the students reach 30 years of age.
“Parents legitimately have concerns about this level of information being stored on a national database, and the Data Commissioner has also raised a red flag after it emerged that the Department had begun collecting data from schools before informing the Commissioner. Despite these concerns, the Minister is pressing ahead with the process, and now appears to be using the database as leverage for teacher numbers and capitation grants.
“This situation is completely unacceptable and unfair; the Minister is effectively threatening to withdraw capitation funds and to reduce teacher numbers, despite the fact that parents have genuine concerns about this database. They are now being forced into a choice between handing over their children’s personal information or see the number of teachers in their schools cut and the amount of funding allocated to the school reduced. This could see hundreds or even thousands of schools penalised as a result of legitimate parental concerns.
“The Minister must take the concerns of parents and the Data Protection Commissioner on board before forcing through these measures, instead of threatening the future of schools across the country”.