Irish Government’s new children's database


Parents cannot ‘withhold kids’ PPS numbers’

Parents have been told they will be unable to withhold their children’s PPS numbers from a controversial new Department of Education database as the information will be found from the Department of Social Protection instead.

The new primary online database (POB) requires that primary schools hand over PPS numbers for all their pupils, to be held by the department and shared with other state agencies until the ‘child’ is 30 years old.

However, not all primary schools collect PPS numbers when enrolling pupils and, in cases where parents are asked but refuse to provide the information, the department has said it will use the mother’s name to seek the child’s number through Social Protection.
The department has said there will be no consequences for schools if parents do not provide information on their children’s religion as this question is being asked “for statistical purposes only”.

However, it warns that if information is not supplied about ethnic and cultural background, it will be harder to target resource allocation to schools with children who may need extra language classes and other supports.

It also warns that if information is not provided about Traveller children under this heading, schools could lose out on the higher capitation grants available where Traveller pupils are enrolled.

The parents of more than half a million children are currently receiving letters from their schools explaining the need for the data collection, which is meant to be completed by March and updated on an ongoing basis afterwards.

The project has come in for criticism over its intention to hold the information from the time a child enters school until they turn 30.

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan has already said she will look again at whether it is necessary to hold the information so long.

However, further doubts have been raised over the plan following warnings the move could breach data protection laws.

A leading solicitor said that, under the Data Protection Act, information gathered should be limited to only what is necessary, it should be gathered for very particular circumstances, and it should not be retained for longer than necessary.

Simon McGarr, an expert in digital rights, said the plans — which involve sharing the information with various state bodies and holding on to it until pupils are at least 30-year-old — seemed excessive.
See also this excellent blog post and follow ups which cover the issue in detail:

Unanswered legal problems with the Government’s new database of children

The Department of Education is building a database of Ireland’s children. It’s called the Primary Online Database and, currently, its intention is to collect a full profile of data on all the children in education and to store that data until they turn 30. Yes, 30.

They started last September 2014, taking data from schools directly, rather than asking parents in almost all cases. Now the department is sending home letters to parents about the database, baldly telling parents that they’re taking their child’s data.
Minister for Education: We will forget nothing, learn nothing

This might seem like a minor point, but in fact, in EU law, the independence of Data Protection Commissioners is considered a very Big Deal. So much so that the EU Commission has repeatedly sued member states whose Governments act to undermine that independence. After the most recent such case Commission -v- Hungary, the EU Justice Commissioner and Vice President of the Commission, Viviane Reding issued a strong warning;

The independence of national data protection authorities is the very cornerstone of guaranteeing effective data protection rights for our citizens. Lack of independence means lack of effective supervision and oversight, and a lowering of the level of data protection. The Commission has intervened three times with infringement cases against Member States to stop such incursions on the independence of data protection watchdogs. I will not hesitate to intervene again if necessary.”
Tell the Minister for Education: NO to POD

Dear Minister O’Sullivan:

I write to you regarding the Department of Education’s planned rollout of the new Primary Online Database (POD). I call on you to withdraw this system until the legitimate issues raised by parents and the wider public can be addressed:

It is unacceptable for your Department to gather sensitive, private data on every individual primary school child, including their racial profile, psychological assessments, special needs, religion, and PPS number, and store it until they are at least 30 years of age;

It is deeply worrying that school staff will be able to enter comments on any child into a system so poorly secured that the Department cannot guarantee who will be able to access them;

It is unrealistic to expect school staff to transfer this highly sensitive data to the Department of Education using a 17-step process so complex its been called ‘damn near unusable’;

When parents decline to have their children’s information unlawfully transferred to the POD database, it is outrageous to tell teachers to just go ahead and enter it anyway;

It is education extortion to threaten to remove funding and teacher allocations for children whose parents have made the decision not to enter their children’s details.

The Department may not simply ignore citizen’s data protection rights and legal protections, even when those citizens are children. Please scrap this POD scheme in the best interests of every school child in Ireland.
The parents of more than half a million children are currently receiving letters from their schools explaining the need for the data collection,
It was very civilised of the Irish Government that they wrote to every parent. I only wish the different British jurisdictions has been so polite. Very few parents are aware of the data that is collected on them by Government. I recently spoke to a science teacher who was completely unaware that the retruns she was completing ended up in central Government. Most concerningly, she said that such returns often contain mistakes. The obvious point being that such information could harm a child if misused in later years.

The only way that Data Protection laws can be properly satisfied is if every bit of information is checked by the parents before it is stored.


I really do not know why children's data has to be collected (except to sell it to the highest bidder). Or the data from any citizen. This smells.


Seriously was considering a move to Ireland, until I read more on the current state of affairs.
Sad, so sad.