As longstanding, longsuffering readers will be aware, for the past year and a bit, I have been arguing that the Primary Online Database (POD) was illegal.
Though that argument has not come to a conclusion (and I expect it to be successful) the Department of Education has been forced into a series of climbdowns along the way.
Now, I have learned from a Freedom of Information request that since 29th February 2016 the Department has permanently given up on its threat to defund the education of children whose parents didn’t consent to their data being hoovered up into the POD.
They just haven’t told the schools collecting the data yet, because they don’t want to.
In a letter to the Data Protection Commissioner’s office on foot of a complaint I had made, the Department made the following through-gritted-teeth acceptance that POD couldn’t be compulsory.
In advance of the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year a circular will be issued with updated information on how POD will operate, including confirmation that partial records may still be created for any students whose parents have an objection to POD. The Department feels that allowing partial records to be created is a fair compromise for parents with such objections, as it protects the anonymity of the pupil while ensuring that school data is accurate for funding purposes. There is no risk of schools losing funding as a result of parents refusing consent to put their children’t data on POD.
How things change. Here’s the Minister of Education’s office in 2015 threatening that children’s educations would be defunded, if they didn’t comply.
Now, this letter was sent to the Data Protection Commissioner’s office. But, despite the decision having been made, schools haven’t been told about the policy change and so will still be seeking compliance with POD with the threat of defunding still active.
So, perhaps we should send our schools a copy of the Department’s letter, letting them know what the Department is so slow to admit.
You can find a handy emailable copy of the full letter below.