Department of Education issue new, water-muddying message re POD to schools

Text of today’s message:

Dear Principal,

Thank you all for your continued participation and engagement in the POD project.

Please note that the Department is committed to taking on board feedback from schools and parents about POD. In light of this please be aware of the following changes that will be released on POD on 4th March 2015 at 10.00am. In order to facilitate these changes POD will be unavailable between 8.00am and 10.00am on Wednesday the 4th March.

Secure Upload Facility

The updated version of POD will contain a secure upload facility for schools that wish to upload their pupil data using the Department’s excel template. This will replace the encryption process that is currently in place to transmit excel templates. The template is available from the Department’s POD helpdesk pod@eduaction.gov.ie

Ethnic or Cultural Background

The DES has reviewed the question in POD on Ethnic or Cultural Background, the following categories will now be used which better reflect the categories in the CSO 2011 Census of population question. The change in wording will be applied automatically to the system from 4th March, and no additional update will be required at school level. Amended categories in red. [here, marked with an *]

White Irish

Irish Traveller

Roma

Any other White Background

*Black or Black Irish – African

*Black or Black Irish – Any other Black Background

*Asian or Asian Irish – Chinese

*Asian or Asian Irish – Any other Asian background

Other (inc. mixed background)

No consent

An updated suggested consent form incorporating these changes will be available for downloading by parents from the Department’s website on 4th March at www.education.ie. These changes will also be reflected on the POD database.

Action required by schools –

Schools that have not yet sought parental/guardian consent for the collection of this data should ensure that they use the wording as per the revised version of the suggested consent form.

Schools that have already secured parental/guardian consent – Where a parent has raised a concern around the ethnic and cultural background question please inform them that the new version of the form will be available for downloading from the Department’s website. A parent wishing to amend what they originally submitted, may return the updated form to the school.

If a new form is submitted, schools will only need to amend the original input if there is a change in category.

For schools that use an administrative software package the Department has been in touch with the software providers and they have made the appropriate changes to their data collection systems.

Learning Support

As a considerable number of schools have indicated that they are having difficulty completing the questions on GAM/NCSE and low incidence, this portion of POD is no longer compulsory for the 2014/2015 school year.

Note that while this means that we may not receive full information on this topic from all schools, the information returned by schools in these questions is still of statistical value and will be used to show aggregate information on how schools are currently allocating resources under GAM.

Schools will receive further instructions for the GAM/NCSE and low incidence questions for the 2015/2016 school year. It is important to note that this data does not roll over with the pupil each year.

The Department has received a number of comments and queries on certain aspects of POD including the retention period for POD data and other data protection concerns. The Department is taking this feedback very seriously and is currently considering the submissions received from parents and other stakeholders. The Department is consulting with the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office and once this evaluation is complete the Department will issue an updated circular on POD later in this academic year.

From the 2016/2017 academic year, it is intended that teacher allocations and capitation grants will be made on the basis of POD data, and the previous basis for allocations, the National Annual School Census will cease operation from that point. The Department will endeavour to work with schools and parents to help avoid the loss of funding or resources.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all schools that have completed the Primary Online Database. For schools that have yet to enter their pupils on POD, please complete this process by the 31st March 2015 – thank you.

A POD helpdesk has been set up which is available to assist schools with any POD queries. The helpdesk is available Monday to Friday 8:30am-5pm on 01 8892311. If you have any queries or comments please do not hesitate to contact us at pod@education.gov.ie. Please note that schools can refer parents/guardians to the helpdesk if they wish to do so.

Yours faithfully
XXXX

Posted in Education |

Dept of Education refuses FOI on POD as ‘not in the public interest’

2nd March 2015

Mr Simon McGarr

Re: FOI request 2015/45

I refer to the request which you made under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 for records held by this body:

‘I wish to make a request under the Freedom of Information Acts (as amended) for copies of any and all documents including but not limited to observations, letters, emails and/or submissions whether held in paper, electronic or any format relating to the Primary Online Database between the Department and Minister for Education and Skills and the Data Protection Commissioner and/or her Office.’

I, XXXX, Higher Executive Officer have now made a final decision to refuse your request on 27/02/2015.

The purpose of this letter is to explain that decision. This explanation has the following parts:

1. a condensed schedule of all of the records covered by your request;
2. an explanation of the relevant findings concerning the records to which access is denied, and
3. a statement of how you can appeal this decision should you wish to do so.

This letter addresses each of these three parts in turn.

1. Schedule of records

Outlined below are the documents that this body considers relevant to your request.
1. Emails between Department of Education and Skills and the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office regarding the Primary Online Database – 9 emails between 9/12/13 and 30/1/15
2. Notes and agendas of meetings between the Department of Education and Skills and the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office regarding the Primary Online Database – 3 (11/12/13 and 10/2/15)

2. Findings, particulars and reasons for decisions to deny access

The decision to deny access to records has been made under Section 29 of the FOI Act 2014, Deliberations of FOI bodies
29. (1) A head may refuse to grant an FOI request—
(a) if the record concerned contains matter relating to the deliberative processes of
an FOI body (including opinions, advice, recommendations, and the results of
consultations, considered by the body, the head of the body, or a member of the
body or of the staff of the body for the purpose of those processes), and
(b) the granting of the request would, in the opinion of the head, be contrary to the
public interest,

Under the provisions of Section 29(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2014, I consider that the public interest would not be best served at this time on the basis that it would reveal details regarding the deliberative process on the current development of a revised circular on the Primary Online Database. The Department has yet to finalise its deliberations and such release could prejudice the Department’s ability to properly conclude those deliberations.

3. Rights of appeal

You may appeal this decision. In the event that you need to make such an appeal, you can do so by writing to the Freedom of Information Unit, Department of Education and Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. Your correspondence should include a fee of €30 for processing the appeal. (Payment should be made by way of personal cheque or postal money order to the accountant the Department of Education and Skills/Please note that from 19 September, 2014, the Department of Education and Skills will no longer accept cheque payments from business users in accordance with the Department of Finance Circular 01/2013. For further information regarding payment methods for business users, please email foi@education.gov.ie).

You should make your appeal within 4 weeks from the date of this notification, however, the making of a late appeal may be permitted in appropriate circumstances. A week is defined in the Act to mean 5 consecutive weekdays, excluding Saturdays and public holidays (Sunday are also excluded, as they are not weekdays). The appeal will involve a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior member of the staff of this Department.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the above, please contact me by telephone on xxxx.

Yours sincerely,

________________________

Xxxx
Statistics Section.

Posted in Education | Tagged

Tell the Minister for Education: NO to POD

Please join 410 other parents and families in writing to the Minister for Education to protect every school-aged child’s right to privacy and future identity security. Tell Minister O’Sullivan that the Department of Education’s plans for the new Primary Online Database (POD) should be scrapped.

Add your name, email address and any comments below and the following email will go off on your behalf to the Minister to make your voice heard.

  • Dear Minister O’Sullivan:

    I write to you regarding the Department of Education’s planned rollout of the new Primary Online Database (POD). I call on you to withdraw this system until the legitimate issues raised by parents and the wider public can be addressed:

    • It is unacceptable for your Department to gather sensitive, private data on every individual primary school child, including their racial profile, psychological assessments, special needs, religion, and PPS number, and store it until they are at least 30 years of age;
    • It is deeply worrying that school staff will be able to enter comments on any child into a system so poorly secured that the Department cannot guarantee who will be able to access them;
    • It is unrealistic to expect school staff to transfer this highly sensitive data to the Department of Education using a 17-step process so complex its been called ‘damn near unusable’;
    • When parents decline to have their children’s information unlawfully transferred to the POD database, it is outrageous to tell teachers to just go ahead and enter it anyway;
    • It is education extortion to threaten to remove funding and teacher allocations for children whose parents have made the decision not to enter their children’s details.

    The Department may not simply ignore citizen’s data protection rights and legal protections, even when those citizens are children. Please scrap this POD scheme in the best interests of every school child in Ireland.

  • Please add any other comments you would like to be included in your letter:
  • Yours Sincerely,

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
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