Fears over “educational extortion”

Spokesperson on Education, Inishowen TD Charlie McConalogue has called on the Education Minister to withdraw her threat to penalise schools whose pupils are not enrolled on the Primary Online Database.

Minister Jan O’Sullivan plans to cut funding to schools should parents fail to hand over their children’s data to the centralised system, despite a number of serious concerns about data protection issues being raised.

Deputy McConalogue said: “Parents and schools are under enormous pressure to transfer pupils’ data into POD as they have been threatened by the Minister with a withdrawal of funding and a reduction in teacher allocations if they are unable, or do not wish to, put these details on the centralised database. “

He added it was “remarkable “that the Minister has “continued to push schools to collect these potentially sensitive details including students’ racial profile, psychological assessments, medical and disability needs, religion, and PPS number; despite the admission by the Minister in the Dáil this week that she intends to revise the POD system.”

“It is educational extortion to threaten to remove funding and teacher allocations for children whose parents have made the decision not to enter their children’s details. Many parents do not see the need for the Department to hold this information, including teacher’s notes, until their children reach the age of 30. However, this is what the Minister is trying to force through. The Minister’s position on this issue is completely contradictory. On the one hand, she’s admitting that POD will be revised, while at the same time insisting that it is the only way to measure pupil numbers. As it stands, if parents refuse to enter their children’s details on POD, these school places will be considered empty and this will have a knock-on effect on teacher numbers and capitation funding. This is very possibly a breach of these children’s constitutional rights to education.”He urged the Minister to suspend data collection until schools’ and parents’ fears have been “allayed.”