How libellous is your database?

According to Children Now:

Leicestershire Council has signed a £1m contract for an IT system designed to help target truancy, behaviour and pupil attainment.

The five-year agreement with Capita Education Services will provide a system to manage pupil and school data. It will make it easier for children’s services teams to share information on attendance, exclusions, behaviour, pupil attainment and special educational needs.

Over on the Capita education site, online demonstrations of all their products are available. The ‘Detailed Pupil Record’ captures, well, everything – right down to ‘disruptive behaviour – throwing food’.

Schools need to start being very careful if they are logging and sharing information on what may be subjective or unfair decisions about behaviour. After all, who hasn’t at some point been unfairly accused of some misdemeanour or other at school?

Generally children shrug injustice off as yet another example of a particular teacher’s irascibility or unreasonableness, but if that information is going to be spread around and find its way on to the databases of other services in order to facilitate judgments about whether a child is showing signs of being ‘at risk’ of future offending, that’s another matter completely.

The problem with sharing unsubstantiated and disputed allegations amongst schools, social services, Youth Offending Teams and the police can be summed up in one word: defamation. In the days when details of alleged misbehaviour and consequent detentions were scribbled down in a punishment book, the idea that a child’s reputation might suffer damage would have been laughable, but the situation now is entirely different.

A child whose database record is peppered with incidents of ‘disruptive behaviour’ is a child heading for a label and a multi-agency intervention scheme. More, that record is persistent: unlike the punishment book, it doesn’t disappear down the back of the head teacher’s filing cabinet to accumulate dust once the pages have started to fall out. It can follow a child around every agency with which s/he has contact for years to come.

Teachers are going to have to start being very sure indeed about what goes on to a child’s behaviour record, because as soon as children’s information starts crossing the school fence, the implications of unjust accusations suddenly become extremely serious.

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6 Responses to How libellous is your database?

  1. Carlotta says:

    I think Home Educators will be very interested in this. Am forwarding the link to the lists.

  2. Chantal says:

    This reminds me of ‘MR Peabody’s Apples’ by Madonna.
    Once the comment is out, no apologies can completely retract it.

  3. Pippa says:

    What does the school do with this information? For 1 million pounds it must be generating some meaty reports.

  4. Raw Carrot says:

    Don’t you mean Crapita?

    As for what the £1mn delivers: probably not much. I wouldn’t expect any meaty reports – rather expect delays, cock-ups and compatibility issues with existing systems etc. which will then require further £££s to be spent.

  5. Pippa says:

    Ho, ho! – yes Raw Carrot, I agree 🙂

  6. Claire says:

    Sinister or what? Does this now mean children can be guilty until proven innocent?
    State interference at this level is terrifiying.
    I thank god I now Home Educate my children. We are all on enough data bases as it is without yet another system to use as a beating stick.
    The implications of inapropriate information being passed on to other agencies or even future employers is beyound comprehension. I only want my children to have one lable which reads “I’M TOTALLY INDIVIDUAL” nothing else, isn’t it about time our government and the LEA’s stopped treating children as if they are the property of the state and that parents are incapable of their wellbeing? It’s odd that for the 1st five years this is never an issue.

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