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Minister: Keeping data on students until they're 30 is 'reasonable'

The minister said she is satisfied the time limit doesn’t need to be changed – for now, at least.

Image: Shutterstock/kolo5

EDUCATION MINISTER JAN O’Sullivan has said she is satisfied that keeping personal data on school children until they are 30 years old is “reasonable”.

Earlier this month, her department came in for criticism after it emerged that it was collecting the follow information about children: name, PPS number, address, date of birth, nationality, and mother’s maiden name.

The form also includes non-compulsory fields such as ethnic or cultural background, religion, and need for learning supports.

At the time, data experts raised concerns about the process. Special advisor to Europol’s Cybercrime Centre, Brian Honan, called it a “worrying overreach of the State”.

This prompted O’Sullivan to say she would reconsider keeping the data until students turn 30. The minister has today said that the time limit for retention will not change.

I did say that I would look at the length of time again and I have done so and I am satisfied that is is reasonable.

Speaking on Drivetime, O’Sullivan said that a group has been established in her department “to monitor this on an ongoing basis in consultation with the office of the Data Protection Commissioner”.

The minister said similar data is already collected on post-primary students and there will now be a “continuum of information right through the education system” – from early years to post-doctorate level in some cases.

She said the information will be “kept on a very secure server with very limited access”, adding: “Less that 15 people in the statistics section in the depertment” will have access to it.

It is purely for planning purposes and purely to ensure that we have the best possible use of education resources in the schools.

Strikes

Also on the programme, O’Sullivan was questioned on the talks between the department and second level teachers over Junior Cycle reform.

Teachers have engaged in strike action on two days so far. They are against marking 40% of their students’ work for exam purposes.

O’Sullivan said she would not be drawn on whether this figure would change but is pleased that talks are ongoing.

Leaving Cert Exams Results Jan O'Sullivan (file photo) Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

“I certainly hope there will be no further strikes days, but there are no guarantees.”

Homophobic bullying

The minister was also asked about her thoughts on a decision by a Dublin school to postpone a workshop on homophobic bullying, saying that “both sides should be represented”.

Transition Year students at Coláiste Eoin in Stillorgan held a protest over the move.

O’Sullivan said:

There are no two sides to this, homophobic bullying is wrong.

“The State views homophobic bullying as unacceptable and that isn’t a matter for debate.”

Minister to reconsider keeping data on school children until they’re 30

Department’s plan to collect data on every child a ‘worrying overreach of the State’

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Órla Ryan

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