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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 09:58 GMT
Eye scanners for school children
Eye
Eye scans use the pattern of the iris for identification
Plans have been unveiled to introduce retinal eye scan technology to identify schoolchildren.

The retinal scanners will be used at the new 14.5m Venerable Bede Church of England Aided School, which is due to open in Sunderland in September.

The technology will be used on pupils buying meals in the school canteen and in the library when children want to take out books.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has questioned the financial and long-term health implications and said it would have "great concerns" if it was extended to include teaching staff.

The retinal scan is safe, secure, very efficient and quick

Ed Yates, headteacher

Howard Brown, Sunderland secretary for the NUT, said: "I think there is a fine line between practical technology and James Bond technology and I think this might have crossed it.

"There may be a cheaper option and the finances could be better used on teachers and teaching and learning."

"I would like to see it working and look at the advantages first before it is extended."

Ed Yates, headteacher of the 900-pupil school, said trained technicians will be able to scan up to12 students per minute during lunchtime.

He told the BBC the technology was cost effective, safe and backed by pupils, but parents had not yet been consulted about the plans.

'Low risk'

"When we started building our school for the future... we discovered that retinal technology was not only foolproof, safe and efficient, it was more cost effective.

"It does make a much faster and more efficient use of time within the lunch hours.

"Costs are the same as a swipe card system, however unlike a swipe system where you have to buy new cards every year, there are no additional costs.

"The retinal scan is safe, secure, very efficient and quick."

Derek Casey, chairman of the Sunderland Local Optical Committee, said the health risks were likely to be tiny.

He said: "If it is a high powered laser beam there is a potential for damage. If it is a general low powered light beam, I think the potential for damage is incredibly small."



See also:

23 Jul 02 | Education
29 Aug 02 | England
17 Jan 02 | Education
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