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Issue #1691      July 1, 2015

Defence denied pupils’ data

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been rumbled after trying not once but twice to access school pupils’ personal details in order to target them with recruitment propaganda.

A “Tier 1” request for pupils’ most sensitive data was first made on behalf of the MoD last year but was only exposed when the Department for Education (DfE) routinely released details of all requests for access to the National Pupil Database (NPD).

Information requested included the name, exam number, home address, date of birth, ethnicity, primary language, special educational needs, disabilities and absence and exclusion data of pupils and whether their parents were in the armed forces.

The MoD said the application, a long and arduous process, was a mistake and was not made by staff in its recruitment section. “This is not in line with army policy and the request has been halted,” said an MoD spokesperson.

But the website Schools Week revealed yesterday that it had seen the NPD application form and ascertained that not only had the MoD’s “information superiority” branch made the request in order to create a recruitment mobile app but had asked about appealing against the DfE’s refusal, saying it was “disappointed” by the decision.

“We know that the armed forces visit schools for recruitment purposes so they can avoid the influence of parents and other ‘gatekeepers’. This application would allow them to do that more effectively,” said independent military monitor Forces Watch.

“The DfE has been working in close collaboration with the MoD, so we are relieved that this request has been refused. It indicates just how inappropriate it was.”

The MoD has refused to comment further on the data access request, which was made from Andover, home to the army’s headquarters, and to address its claim that the application had been halted.

Data protection expert Tim Turner told Schools Week that the MoD’s plan to use the information to “enable us to understand the qualification level [of] an eventual applicant” and to “better focus the information we send them” would breach data protection law.

“They would need consent, which they don’t have … and they would need to tell the young people that the data was being shared, which they haven’t.”

Morning Star

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