The Information Commissioner's Office is now advising schools with fingerprint systems to ask the child's and parents' permission before taking fingerprints.
"A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office said: "Because of the sensitivity of the issue, we are recommending that schools follow best practice and ask permission of parent and pupil before they take a fingerprint."
However, he said: "There's nothing in the act that makes that clear," and could not explain what would happen to schools that failed to follow this advice. Neither could he say at what age a child could assume legal responsibility for its own behaviour, without seeking parental advice...
This was the basis on which the ICO worked till now. Last September when the ICO guidance on school fingerprinting was said to be just weeks away from publication, David Smith, now deputy commissioner, said that schools could fingerprint children without parental consent under the Data Protection Act. As long as kids were deemed to be old enough to make their own minds up, the school could ask them and keep parents out of the loop."