Campaigners are urging the Government to pause a new collection of pupil data amid fears it will put sensitive information about vulnerable children at risk.
From 18 January, local authorities will record information on the reasons children are transferred from mainstream education – information including mental health issues, pregnancy and youth offences.
The data, which can be recorded without the consent of parents, will be connected to the child’s name and stored in the national pupil database, where it will never be deleted.
In a letter to the Education Secretary, 20 organisations including Mencap – a UK charity for people with a learning disability – and the National Education Union say the measures, carried out in the alternative provision census, mean pupils risk being “labelled for life”.
Parents are not being informed about the records, which can be accessed by third parties including commercial businesses and government departments, they add.
“The use of these data, often profiling children over their lifetime, will potentially discriminate against them when data are used across Government, when used for direct interventions, and by external third parties, including the police,” the groups wrote.
According to research by campaigning organisation DefendDigitalMe, more 1,000 third party requests for the use of pupil records have been made since March 2012.
Groups accessing the data include the National Citizen Service, Department for Work and Pensions and private tutoring companies, as well as journalists and universities.
Many of the requests were made on the basis of monitoring or research purposes.
A Department for Education spokesperson said there were no plans for sharing the new information, and that information about students was collected to ensure “an education system that works for all”.
“The robust approvals panel and other controls are in place to ensure that this data, like all our data is very safely guarded and only used in legal, secure and ethical ways,” a spokesperson said.
The coalition of groups have urged that the Government pause the roll-out to ensure that pupil data and confidentiality is protected, and that families are informed about the information being recorded.
“We are talking about a national list of children’s names against which, for example, pregnancy will be ascribed,” Jen Persson, director of DefendDigitalMe, told Sky News.
“This includes senstive health information which should be treated with the confidentiality requirements of medical data. Information like this could be discriminatory and stigmatising, and it shouldn’t be used in ways that families can’t see.”