Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Department of Education and Skills
Pupil Data Collection
154. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she is satisfied that the collection of data concerning primary school children for the primary online database is legally permissible; the way schools have gathered and processed sensitive personal data, as defined under the Data Protection Acts 1988 - 2003; the way this has been done in a manner consistent with statutory obligations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6275/15]
155. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the way it is legally permissible for schools to gather and process the personal data of primary school children for a purpose other than the purpose for which the data has been collected; if she will categorically list the purposes for which data is being collected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6276/15]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 155 together.
The legal basis for sharing the pupil data between schools and the Department is as laid out in Section 28 of the Education Welfare Act, which provides for the sharing of data for the purposes outlined in the act.
(1) The data controller of a prescribed body may supply personal data kept by him or her, or information extracted from such data, to the data controller of another prescribed body if he or she is satisfied that it will be used for a relevant purpose only.
(2) The data controller of a prescribed body may, for a relevant purpose only, keep and use personal data supplied to him or her under this section.
(3) In this section—"data controller" and "personal data" have the meanings assigned to them by the Data Protection Act, 1988;
"prescribed body" means a body prescribed by the Minister;
"relevant purpose" means the purpose of—
(a) recording a person's educational or training history or monitoring his or her educational or training progress in order to ascertain how best he or she may be assisted in availing of educational or training opportunities or in developing his or her full educational potential, or
(b) carrying out research into—
(i) the extent to which persons in receipt of, or who have received, a certain minimum education present for examinations to which Part VIII of the Act of 1998 applies, and the performance in such examinations of persons who so present,
(ii) the extent to which persons who have received a certain minimum education participate further in programmes of education, training or instruction, or
(iii) the general effectiveness of educational or training programmes.
The primary purpose of POD will be to monitor the education progress of primary pupils (in DES aided schools), throughout the primary system and onwards to post primary level and to help them develop their full educational potential. Once up and running other secondary purposes of POD will include becoming the basis for the allocation of teachers and capitation grants. Aggregated POD data will also be used for the production and publication of primary level statistics.
156. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will confirm that capitation grants and staffing resources are linked to the provision by parents of personal information regarding their children to schools for the primary online database; that there is an inherent coercion in this, in that schools feel obliged to gather and process this information, for fear of losing funding; if this places the schools in an invidious position considering their statutory obligations, as data controllers, under the provisions of the Data Protection Acts 1088-2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6277/15]
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. However there is no mechanism for separate payment and allocation to schools for pupils that are not on POD, and from a practical point of view it is difficult to see how such a system could work in practice.
Under Section 12 of the Education Act 1998, the Minister of Education shall determine and publish the criteria in each school year by which funding shall be provided to schools in the following academic year. Over 3 billion euro of taxpayers money is spent annually on funding our primary school system. The vast majority of this funding is allocated to schools on the basis of reported pupil numbers. It is more than prudent from an audit and financial accountability point of view that we validate the data underlying these payments and ensure that payment is made only once in relation to each pupil.