Irish school scans fingers to beat truancy

Posted on June 02nd, 2005

A school in Ireland is testing biometric fingerprint readers in a bid to stamp out truancy.

St Andrews College is making second-year pupils sign up to TruancyGuard – a mechanism that reads fingerprints without recording them entirely. The company behind the software claims it protects children’s identities by only recording certain ‘interesting’ parts of the fingerprint and discarding the rest.

Teachers at the school said they like the system because it allows them to avoid registering children and spend more time doing other things.

Rob Micallef, a form teacher at the school said: ‘The class are very interested and excited about their role in this project. On my part, I find I can now spend extra time with the class making sure they are aware of upcoming events in the school and dealing with everyday issues facing the busy pupils. Moving the responsibility of registration to the pupils empowers them and frees up my time to deal with more important issues facing the students today.’

If a child does not turn up to school, parents receive a text message. Parents or staff can also monitor pupil attendance via a secure website. For example, when a student logs in, the information is immediately visible online or on an automated telephone system which uses ‘Press 1 for latest attendance statistics’ menus.

St Andrews College claims to be Ireland’s only international college, which would imply that many of the parents are in other countries on different time zones.

The managing director of the software company, said: ‘Some people hold reservations about allowing their biometric information to be stored. We have worked hard to ensure this problem is dealt with adequately. This method has the same secure results as full fingerprint storage but protects the individuals’ privacy through the non-recording of their unique fingerprints.’

By Dann Ilett