Schools could be fitted with futuristic face scanners which screen pupils’ faces with an invisible infra-red light as they attempt to enter the building to keep out strangers.
The system, which is being trialled in a UK school next week, can also be used to allow children to take out library books and buy their lunch.
It is among a host of high-tech security measures introduced in schools in a bid to keep pupils safe.
Some schools have brought in fingerprint and eye scanners, while others are planning to put radio transponder chips in pupils’ uniforms to keep tabs on them.
But there are fears the technology breaches children’s civil liberties.
One school installed an iris scanner in 2003 but removed it a year later after it failed to recognise some students and led to lengthy queues.
Aurora, a Northampton-based biometric firm, will exhibit its new “face recognition software” at an education technology conference in London next week.
The company has developed a prototype aimed at schools for “ultra fast student registration, easy cashless catering and secure access control”.
Each system – costing around £1,000 – can verify a face in 1.5 seconds and claims to be more accurate at identifying people than a human.
Patrick Usher, the company’s technical director, told the Times Educational Supplement that adapting the technology for children was a challenge as their faces changed quicker than adults.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the system would be welcomed if it cut bureaucracy – but he said: “You always seem to get queues behind security devices”.
Guidance issued in 2007 gives headteachers permission to collect pupils’ biometric data to use when taking the register, paying for lunch or using the library.
But civil liberties campaigners are concerned that the data could be given to police or the Government without parents’ knowledge – or stolen by identity thieves.
“These systems store fingerprint templates, which are used by the police. It leaves children open to identity fraud later on,” said the pressure group Leave Them Kids Alone.
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 7:45PM GMT 09 Jan 2009
Source: The Telegraph