Pupils’ data will be discarded at 19, says minister

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan is changing plans to hold pupils’ personal data until their 30th birthday and will delete the information when they turn 19 instead.

A revision to the system, under which data for all 540,000 primary pupils is being sent by schools to the department, would see names, full addresses, and PPS numbers deleted or made anonymous more than a decade earlier than previously proposed.

However, only the parents of pupils already in primary school will have an option to have a child’s personal information withheld from the primary online database (POD) without affecting the school’s public funding or staffing levels.

Plans seen by the Irish Examiner were confirmed by Ms O’Sullivan yesterday and will be sent to primary schools early next month. She gave a commitment in January to respond to issues raised about the POD, including keeping pupils’ data until they turned 30.

“I had said I would look particularly at the concerns around the length of time the data was being kept,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

Each pupil’s PPS number will now instead be kept until their 19th birthday, and then anonymised and used only for statistical purposes. Names and addresses will also be kept until they turn 19, when first lines of addresses will be deleted, and mothers’ maiden names will be removed from departmental records once a PPS number is confirmed.

All other data, such as gender; nationality; date of leaving a primary school and school they move to; and special need supports; will then be kept on an anonymised basis for statistical analysis and long-term policy development.

It will remain optional for parents to provide information on a child’s religion, ethnicity, or cultural background.

Schools will have until the end of April to complete the transfer of data, after only 2,400 of the 3,300 primary schools provided some or all of the data ahead of the original deadline of next Monday.

All new entrants from next September must be told before enrolment of the need to transfer their data. Schools will not be able to count them for grants or staffing allocations unless their data is entered into the POD.

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