Mum leads charge to protect child identities

Jen Persson
Jen Persson

A mother of three said she was prepared to take the Government to court over its decision to include ‘highly sensitive’ data on the National Pupil Database.

Jen Persson, from Pulborough, was ‘shocked’ when – last September – the Department for Education passed a law to collect more data on children who had been placed outside state-funded education for reasons including pregnancy, disability or mental health.

A campaign event in Bournemouth

A campaign event in Bournemouth

Individual records on up to 22,000 children now include information relating to why a certain child was moved into alternative provision, which could be distributed to third parties from June 2018.

Mrs Persson, who has three children in primary school, said: “They have added information for the children that have moved out from their regular school to go to a new setting. Now they can look at the list and see Joe Bloggs moved for mental health needs. That is out there now.

“How is that going to be used in the future? These things are going onto ours, and our children’s, records for life.”

Since 2002, the Department for Education has gathered information, including names, on all children in state-funded education between the ages of two and 19, without the need for parental consent.

This data has – after ‘strict vetting’ – been distributed to third parties who used it to conduct their own research.

Mrs Persson started a legal challenge against the Government’s collection of data because it ‘gives away sensitive, personal, (and) confidential data’.

She is currently raising £4,000 to launch the first phase of her campaign.

She added: “I am trying to raise awareness of an issue that (parents) do not know about it.

“If we do not look after our childrens’ digital footwork now then we put their security at risk. We really need to get people aware of this.

“We want the Department for Education to stop giving out this data, especially this highly sensitive data, without the consent of parents. Through this campaign specifically, could the Government stop collecting this information without telling parents where it is going?

“Even if you can only donate a pound, it would make the world of difference. Any support would be magnificent.”

The legal challenge is being conducted by defenddigitalme – a non-profit, non-partisan parents/teacher campaign standing up for children’s data privacy in education.

In a post on the campaign website, defenddigitalme said: “We need your support to challenge the Department for Education (DfE)’s new collection of children’s highly sensitive, personal, confidential data that started on January 18, 2018.

“We believe that the DfE is putting millions of children at risk in England. The government has built a national database of named permanent records, for every child in state education, joined up throughout their education from age two to 19.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education defended the use of its data collection.

She said: “The data in the alternative provision census is collected to help us understand why young people are placed in these settings and how we can improve education provision for all pupils.

“The data is not published anywhere and any applications to access it are strictly vetted.”

If you would like to donate to Mrs Persson’s campaign, please visit www.crowdjustice.com/case/labelslastalifetime/.