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Biometric surveillance in schools : cause for concern or case for curriculum?

Bryce, Tom and Nellis, M. and Corrigan, Amanda Jane and Gallagher, H.G. and Lee, Peter and Sercombe, H. (2010) Biometric surveillance in schools : cause for concern or case for curriculum? Scottish Educational Review, 42 (1). pp. 3-22. ISSN 0141-9072


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This article critically examines the draft consultation paper issued by the Scottish Government to local authorities on the use of biometric technologies in schools in September 2008 (see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/09/08135019/0). Coming at a time when a number of schools are considering using biometric systems to register and confirm the identity of pupils in a number of settings (cashless catering systems, automated registration of pupils' arrival in school and school library automation), this guidance is undoubtedly welcome. The present focus seems to be on using fingerprints, but as the guidance acknowledges, the debate in future may encompass iris prints, voice prints and facial recognition systems, which are already in use in non-educational settings. The article notes broader developments in school surveillance in Scotland and in the rest of the UK and argues that serious attention must be given to the educational considerations which arise. Schools must prepare pupils for life in the newly emergent 'surveillance society', not by uncritically habituating them to the surveillance systems installed in their schools, but by critically engaging them in thought about the way surveillance technologies work in the wider world, the various rationales given to them, and the implications - in terms of privacy, safety and inclusion - of being a 'surveilled subject'.