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UK School Introduces Facial Recognition

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the excuse-me-while-I-register-my-delight dept.

Privacy 214

Penguin_me writes "A UK school has quietly introduced new facial recognition systems for registering students in and out of school: 'HIGH-TECH facial recognition technology has swept aside the old-fashioned signing of the register at a school. Sixth-formers will now have their faces scanned as they arrive in the morning at the City of Ely Community College. It is one of the first schools in the UK to trial the new technology with its students. Face Register uses the latest high-tech gadgets to register students in and out of school in just 1.5 seconds.'"

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Wearing a berka sounds like a good idea, (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089143)

don't you think?

I wonder how it copes with twins? (4, Insightful)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089163)

Or just someone holding up someone else's photo?

Re:I wonder how it copes with twins? (4, Informative)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089297)

RTFA it scans the face using infra red. You are right about twins though also how will it cope with beards/Mustaches/Sun glasses. Not such an issue at a 6th form college I know plus this a voluntary system which I'm sure the students support because it saves them about 40 mins a day sitting their whilst a teacher goes through the register.

Re:I wonder how it copes with twins? (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089323)

This absolutely sucks. In my day, all we had to do to sneak out of class, was wait for teacher to turn their back.

Now days kids have to wear Thermoptic Camouflage armour. What is the world coming to.

Re:I wonder how it copes with twins? (2, Interesting)

amias (105819) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089621)

i wonder how it copes with the catastrophic outbursts of acne and spots that afflict
people in the 6th form college.

It would be serious embarrassing to have to
be scanned again and again because of your
spots.

Re:I wonder how it copes with twins? (2, Informative)

Ashriel (1457949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089533)

Most facial recognition systems can determine the difference between identical twins - there are small differences, y'know.

Actually, if you pay attention, you should be able to tell one twin from another yourself, assuming you know a pair. I've known a few, and I've always been able to tell the difference. One dead giveaway is when one twin has a slightly slimmer face than the other.

Re:I wonder how it copes with twins? (5, Funny)

CrimsonScythe (876496) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089939)

Twins? Easy! The evil twin always has a goatee.

How will it tell between Asian kids? (0, Troll)

Laser_iCE (1125271) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089167)

We all know they look the same!

Why do this? (5, Interesting)

siphbowl (1220872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089175)

Why do this? What possible advantage is there? It seems like a completely gratuitous database. Besides which, when I was at college (in the UK age 16-18 normally) they didn't take register - If you didn't turn up, that was your own problem; the lecturers took it up with you when you finally did turn up for class.

Re:Why do this? (2, Funny)

SlashSlasher (1493447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089267)

Now the police will have a full biometric database of the entire population. They used to have to make up a baseless accusation to add you to their database and take your DNA. That's very useful when you run your country like a supermax prison. London has more camera surveillance than most of the prisons in my country. If they wrap George Orwell's corpse in wire they can power the whole thing by how fast he's spinning in his grave. To everyone who thought I was a paranoid freak: I'll take that apology now.

Re:Why do this? (3, Insightful)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089279)

Besides which, when I was at college (in the UK age 16-18 normally) they didn't take register - If you didn't turn up, that was your own problem; the lecturers took it up with you when you finally did turn up for class.

Except when you get hit by a bus the college then gets into trouble for not knowing where you are when you're supposed to be under their care. We're a nanny state, remember.

Re:Why do this? (3, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089409)

Age 16-18 you are not "under their care". At 16 in the UK you are old enough to marry (with your parents permission; not needed in Scotland), leave school and set up your own home or join up with the military. You're considered enough of an adult to look after yourself (though not enough of an adult to go and see a film showing stuff that you're pretty much expected to be doing if you're married. Err...)

Re:Why do this? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089767)

though not enough of an adult to go and see a film showing stuff that you're pretty much expected to be doing if you're married. Err...

You must not be married.

Re:Why do this? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089867)

Oh, I am, and am well aware of the difference between what is expected and the reality.

Re:Why do this? (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089291)

Same reason they're making DNA databases of kids, fingerprint databases of kids and so on.

Because most head teachers are power hungry muppets with not a single bit of respect for liberty in their blood.

It's no suprise then that Jacqui Smith was a teacher before coming totalitarian dictator in chief for the Labour party reporting only to comrade Brown and torture master Milliband.

I don't know what the deal is but so many people in the teaching profession in the UK seem to have this power hungry attitude. I don't know if it's years of being in charge of and having power over kids that oddly in their own minds gives them the same feeling as other corrupt dictators running countries over the years or what.

Seriously though there's a bigger point to be made here, regarding this sort of thing and the DNA/fingerprint databases of kids as well as swipe cards and that sort of thing that schools implement and the government supports. I'm concerned the Labour government is pushing and supporting this kind of thing on kids because they can do it at school where many parents are oblivious to it and such that kids become used to it and wont be opposed to it as they grow up because it's all they've ever known. Coupling parental ignorance with "It's to protect your children" seems like Labour are trying damn hard to make the next generation of voters assume it's normal to suffer this kind of surveillance.

Re:Why do this? (1, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089577)

Mod parent -1 Sensationalist tabloid rubbish.

Disclaimer: I work in the education system, and the Headteacher here is fantastic.

Re:Why do this? (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089865)

Lucky you. You'll note I said "most" headteachers, that means, not all.

I've worked in Education also, albeit not in a single school like you appear to by referring to a single head teacher. I worked in IT support covering 171 schools for a few years so have witnessed first hand the types of people I'm talking about in countless schools and it absolutely was the majority that would fall into this definition.

It is not therefore sensationalist rubbish. Just because you personally haven't experienced or witnessed it does not mean it's not true.

I would however be intrigued to hear why you believe so many schools have implemented student ID cards (often including RFID tracking), fingerprinting, CCTV, or showed strong support for the child DNA databases if you believe there is not a culture of over the top control amongst most British headteachers? Or are you simply trying to deny the fact that most schools have between 1 and all of these measures in place?

Re:Why do this? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089333)

Social conditioning, get the young into the 'cool' new future. Only saddo's who lived in 1984, quote 1984. The gate way drug for more and more tracking. Later used in public places, your part time job, full time job, taxi, public transport ... at home with google, Apple, Sony, MS..

Security services love it. Can passively track you for your productive life. No more funny codes on tickets or 'numbers', just you in front of any networked camera.

ID the skull in the shallow grave? Rebuild a skull and find out its name?

Any Irish students?

Re:Why do this? (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089925)

Only saddo's who lived in 1984, quote 1984

It must be a sad world you live in then. Fortunately I have had the pleasure of meeting other spotty little whippersnappers^W^W^W persons born post-1984 who are less content to live in a cultural vacuum.

What on earth prompted you to adopt the handle of an equally illustrious dystopian?

Oh, and BTW one might suggest you go and look up how to use apostrophes and commas.

You guys are missing the point... (5, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089543)

It is ONE school. How useful could data from only one school in the entire UK be for a forming of some BigBrotherTM database?

Nah... It's something much simpler.
Same reason the face-recognition companies practically gave away their hardware to selected locations in India so they could get better at recognizing the "darker" faces.

Fine tuning.

Teenagers have a tendency for two things more than any other age group.
Growing up and changing their facial structure very quickly in a matter of months AND they "play" with their faces more than anyone else.
Makeup and cosmetics for girls, facial hair for boys, piercings etc. for both.

The point of this "experiment" is to teach the machines how to successfully identify people even if they change their hairstyle, hair color, eye color, grow a beard or a mustache, do some light plastic surgery or heavy makeup to alter their faces, etc.

Now, when they put this in every school - THAT is for making the Great Britain's Good Citizens Glorious Database or GBGCGD.

Re:You guys are missing the point... (5, Insightful)

diskis (221264) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089731)

>It is ONE school.

It's the FIRST school.

Re:You guys are missing the point... (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089855)

What about fine tuning ... population?

You need start with frog in cold water. One experiment here, deploying in whole district there ... small steps until it is everywhere.

Re:Why do this? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089909)

Don't be silly. You aren't fit to govern yourself, you need the government to do it for you. This starts in school, for you need to be conditioned that big brother is a good friend.

Ranting? Off my tea? Me? You bet. But besides that, recall that kids from 6 on up are to be fingerprinted for their ID cards (and put in large leaky databases for their own protection), and schools like to use fingerprints for paying for lunch too. Easy!

Some parents protested. The data protection watchdog said they couldn't, because this was between their kids and the school. Think about that one for a moment. Parents have no say because as being the legal guardians of their kids does not actually make them a party to this sort of thing, sayeth the data protection watchdog. Brilliant.

These aren't the pupils you're looking for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089185)

These aren't the pupils you're looking for...

Why? (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089199)

When I was in school, many moons ago, the teacher just wrote up who was there and who wasn't. Is Johnny in class? No? Report it. No matter if he was in school roaming the halls. Why solve a social problem with a technical solution?

The bad thing is that these are the people who should teach your children.

Re:Why? (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089223)

It's not particularly even a social problem. At 18 you should be old enough to decide whether to go to class or not.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089239)

it's a 6th form of 16-18 year olds, and the school has a legal requirement to ensure attendance.

Re:Why? (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089289)

All the more reason to have a real human being check that they are OK when they enter the school.

Re:Why? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089295)

I am aware of no law that requires them to ensure attendance. Can you quote which law it is?

Education is compulsory until 16 in the UK. It increases to 18 in 2013 iirc.

I'm pretty sure that even if they are now required to note who is present/absent they are not required to ensure attendance as that would be outside of their remit.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089337)

Its in the Education Act. LEAs have the responsibility, they devolve it to schools.

Re:Why? (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089763)

Post 16 education (such a this example - a 6th form college) is voluntary.

Seems you skipped reading comprehension rather often.

Re:Why? (1)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089363)

the school has a legal requirement to ensure attendance.

It does, yes, but how does creating a system that makes it EASIER to skip clases fufill this reuqirement?

Re:Why? (1)

grodzix (1235802) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089227)

Why solve a social problem with a technical solution?

Well said. What's more, it tries to fix problem that no one has. It's not like there is gazillion kids and it's impossible to count them in normal way. And besides, it takes all the fun from morning presence check.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

rarity (165626) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089377)

Why solve a social problem with a technical solution?

You're misapprehending the problem. If the problem was "how do we know who's in class?", then there's nothing wrong with the simple signing of the register. The problem that this is designed to solve, though, is "how do we collect facial-recognition data on as many people as we can while they're still to young to do anything about it?"

Re:Why? (1)

Ashriel (1457949) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089591)

The problem that this is designed to solve, though, is "how do we collect facial-recognition data on as many people as we can while they're still to young to do anything about it?"

Bingo.

Re:Why? (1)

nullhero (2983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27090033)

That is the real question. So how long before the UK is a Totalitarian State?

Bloody idiots (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089207)

I work in schools, in the UK, in IT. This is just incredibly stupid.

You are now RELIANT on that system being accurate to safely evacuate the building in an emergency. That automated system is NO GOOD for that purpose - and you're relying on it with little to no manual backup. You WILL get students with photocopies of their friend's faces (and/or other similarly low-tech solutions to allow the automated system to recognise and register them) in order to get out of lessons, lectures, etc. that they are made to attend. Then when you have a fire, and they are actually somewhere else (or vice versa, logged out of the system but actually still on the premises) you are going to put people's lives at risk. Seriously, give me a week, and I could probably find a way around it that a sixth-former could manage.

Not only that, you are opening yourself up to enormous DPA issues, because this is a irrevocable biometric - much like the UK government and education in general currently condemns and advises against fingerprint recognition systems in schools. It's also completely unnecessary, extremely expensive, probably quite unreliable (any identical twins go to that college, or even just two people who look alike?), potentially discriminatory (What if someone's face isn't recognised? What if they have disfigurement? What if they deliberately obscure their face or object to the system? Do you allow a bypass to that system for them?). The cost of implementing and *maintaining* and *renewing* that system probably far outweighs an hour or so a day at minimum wage for a member of admin/support staff who has some free time, before you even consider the future problems you've opened yourself up to.

Tell me... did the head of the school come up with this idea? I very much doubt it was the staff who were handling the registration systems in the first place.

Re:Bloody idiots (3, Insightful)

peterprior (319967) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089315)

Not only that - but who has the time to "quickly and effectively print data off from the system showing who was on site" when there is a bloody fire alarm. When I was in school we were told to leave everything and get out, not wait for a laser printer to warm up or an epson stylus to clean its printer cartridges.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089473)

Alright... on the same topic... what happens if THE SYSTEM is the cause of the fire? Hence, you have no records and can't gather any? Not likely, but there are things such as *power cuts* when fires occur (even enforced by the fire brigade etc.), LOTS OF WATER from sprinklers, etc. How is the system going to "print off" a nice piece of paper when it's in six inches of water and the paper is soaked?

Re:Bloody idiots (3, Funny)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089627)

what happens if THE SYSTEM is the cause of the fire? Hence, you have no records and can't gather any?

You're thinking too localized. For missioncritical systems, you'd use an offsite datacenter with a decent SLA-contact. It's up to the datacenter to take the precautions to not have their servers go up in flames (that's why some of these datacenters are bunkered and have high security) and preferably have a redundant setup, spread over more then 1 location which is easy these days with virtualization.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

peterprior (319967) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089749)

You're thinking too logically. This is the UK education system we're talking about. Hell the government loses half the populations details in the post - this isn't going to be much more advanced than a PC sitting in an office.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089757)

You'd still need to get the data back to the site. What if at the datacenter, nodoby is reachable, or what if all faxes and phones of the school (needed to receive the list back from the datacenter) are submerged in water too?

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089685)

A school I used to Tech in had an electronic registration system using a system called PARS [tascsoftware.co.uk] . All staff laptops had the registration software which updates a central database. Admin staff can amend these details as required.

Located in three seperate offices in three seperate buildings were three laptops, designated "Fire Modules". These pulled updated registration information from the central server for whole school every minute, and were constantly running during the school day. In the case of fire, the three staff who's office it was obtained these laptops (if safe to do so). The redundancy of three laptops in different locations ensured there would always be one laptop available. They held all of the information required for a comprehensive registration check, and you check off each class as complete as the tutors tell you. It is remarkably effective.

This system with the face recognition is a POS.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089329)

Tell me... did the head of the school come up with this idea? I very much doubt it was the staff who were handling the registration systems in the first place.

Most likely it was someone who looked at the amount of physical registers needed for the current system, thought an electronical system would be cheaper/more efficient, and it got pushed through. I agree with the fire safety side,. Its a shame that people will likely need to die in fire even to start an 'urgent review' of the system if it gets widely adopted.

Whenever I read of things like this I'm always reminded of the university office of a lecturer whose research speciality was issues around the paperless office. Her room was so full of piles of papers, boxes of papers, books and other processed tree junk that she only had around a third of her desk available for her laptop. She also had *really* nice legs, but thats off message somewhat..

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

peterprior (319967) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089345)

Replying twice as I've just thought of something else.

"What if they deliberately obscure their face or object to the system?"

In todays multicultural Britain, what if a Muslim wearing a Burqa wants to enroll at the college?

Re:Bloody idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089581)

In todays multicultural Britain, what if a Muslim wearing a Burqa wants to enroll at the college?

its slightly flame-baity of me but surely if you believe enough of the bullshit that you think you are required to wear a burqua, surely you beleive the other bit that says you should stay at home and not try to be educated above your station?

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

peterprior (319967) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089707)

I said nothing about being required to wear one.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

pmontra (738736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089349)

Spending public money sometimes is a way to get rich, so the real usefulness of the expense is not important as long as it gets approved. I'll answer your last question with another one: who's getting paid to implement the system and which decision makers are close to some of those companies?

Disclaimer: I'm sure these things don't happen in the UK so any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental, etc.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089403)

It looks like you're trying to write about computers..
I work in schools, in the UK, with MS. This is just incredibly stupid.
This is not about you. This is about the next generation feeling happy about facial recognition.

Re:Bloody idiots (2, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089519)

Agreed, in part. It's just a dumb idea.

However, that system is undoubtedly NOT under the control of the IT department, or only minimally via their contractors, when it should be - nobody else really deals with the policy regarding DPA issues except for the IT department and possibly a Data Manager in the larger schools. Unfortunately, it will also tie into their IT registration systems. In doing so, they've given no thought to maintenance or integration costs, whether it satisfies the requirements of such a system, potential interactions (how quickly do "expelled" students get removed from the database, or new students get added?), etc. It's based heavily on similar IT that I have supported (card-swipe registration) where the same problems came up and nobody cared - you even had kids stealing staff cards in order to get into the school at lunchtime because it could take a week to get them cancelled. Each card cost a LOT of money to print and it's a certainty that this system is only slightly undercutting their nearest rival systems (cardswipe reg system) in order to make most profit - for a job that takes FIVE MINUTES for a good teacher and is actually quicker done on a bit of paper. Yes, even some modern schools with thousands of pupils are still using "old-fashioned" registers. And bloody right, as well.

And I have to second the comments made by others on school procurement processes in the UK... I have to say that I *have* worked in places in the past where things were bought purely on the basis that the head was sweet-talked without consulting staff, or where the head was actually a family member / golf buddy / old army colleague of the supplier, as were all the governors (or they were suitably ejected, or otherwise not part of the decision-making process). I've seen IT companies, just like this, with "new" products which were set up entirely on the basis of selling to a handful of schools under the control of a single person, only to disappear shortly after delivery of shoddy, inadequate products with falsely-stated claims and zero other previous clients. Some of them even get as far as BETT...

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089663)

Remember back to the end of the "troubles"?
With all that truck tracking CCTV?
Now the security services want to track people.
As for your 'contractors', think well connected ex GCHQ

they're surveilling the teachers too (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089525)

Check this out: high def, remote controllable cameras in the classroom, with the head teacher monitoring teachers' every move. You couldn't make it up:
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/education/s/1100128_class_cctv_comes_under_fire [manchester...news.co.uk]

Re:they're surveilling the teachers too (2, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089571)

You certainly couldn't - I worked in another school in Essex that does exactly the same. I assure you it is not only real, but *nobody* in the school understands the problem with it except the bad teachers who accept it but get tetchy that their bad teaching is being recorded... not the fact that they are bad teachers, or that they/the staff/the students are being recorded - but the fact that they might have thier gravy-train ended.

I was asked to design and build systems to do just this too, because I could CCTV up a room cheaper than their suppliers. I built one to cover the ICT office which *we* turned on and off overnight or during the holidays to help spot where our laptops were disappearing to, and had no further part in anything else. Not only does it exist - it is happening, it is accepted and it's not being questioned by ANYONE, staff, students, parents, heads, local authorities, etc. even when they are made aware of it. That's more scary than merely "it's possible" or "it exists".

Re:they're surveilling the teachers too (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089619)

We have few enough teachers that we're incentivising going into teaching by giving graduates 6000UKP if they stay in teaching for a few years, and shit like this is meant to encourage people to join the profession? Your boss sitting on your shoulder for 8 hours a day telling you what to do? Like that'll encourage a lively, interesting and friendly environment?
Even burger-flipping at McD's is less invasive than that.
The poor teachers are probably afraid to do *anything* for fear that it'll be interpreted wrongly and used against them.
I'm surprised no-one's used the "stop looking at my kids, you pervert" approach to try and torpedo this, though.

Re:they're surveilling the teachers too (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089977)

Teacher's are not very worried about this at all... stress factors for teachers I've spoken to (based on eight years of working in state schools in the UK, but not necessarily experiences of EVERY school I've worked in):

Ofsted Inspections (where you get several days warning, once every few years or so, for an hour of someone watching you do your job, and writing one sentence on it in the school's report). I have seen teachers (even men) break down and cry, be prescribed tranquilisers etc. during Ofsted inspection times.
Dealing with kids (because 90% of teaching staff can't control even one child sitting on their own in a room to the same standards that ALL of my teachers did with a class of 30).
Internal squabbling (being set up for a fall by fellow staff, backstabbing, gossip, etc.)
Not getting their holidays (because, believe it or not, almost all teaching staff are contracted to work the summer holidays... they just take it off and the culture of education just "accepts" that... support staff with identical terms and conditions are denied the same privileges or paid pro-rata).
Having to justify themselves (wages, hours, skills, qualifications etc.)
Dealing with parents (because they are made to and don't want to because the parent's you NEED to speak to don't care, almost by definition)
Everything else.

You have never seen people so bad at their jobs as you see in teaching. I know of a person who set up a private school with fully-qualified, experienced teachers who were all working in other UK schools at the time. The school flopped within two years because the teacher's couldn't mark, couldn't set questions, couldn't plan, couldn't teach, couldn't even speak understandable English in some cases. Parents complained and the school shut - and ALL of these people went back into teaching careers in state schools from which they had come.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089561)

You are now RELIANT on that system being accurate to safely evacuate the building in an emergency.

Using any sort of register for this purpose, is a great idea for an office with 20 people and one front door. Anybody with an ounce of practicality should be able to see that applying this to a situation with thousands of students and hundreds of staff moving around multiple buildings is going to result in firefighters chasing false positives in building "A" while false negatives are trapped in building "B".

If a school building is on fire during the working day, you have to assume that someone might be in there - end of story.

However, this probably ticks a box on somebody's regulations - which are usually designed to produce a nice paper trail for inspectors rather than to actually help in an emergency.

Where I work, we don't have a register (it would be impossible), although we do have some high-tech automatic fire doors with tiny windows triggered by the alarm. These completely transform the look of the corridors and hide the stair wells. When the alarm sounds and you step into the corridor your first reaction is "Where the fsck am I and who moved the stairs?" Brilliant.)

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089881)

I assure you, every fire drill, every fire visit and every actual fire, the registers are the FIRST things checked in a school situation. Fire inspectors are usually very hot (forgive the pun) on it in schools - my last school were rebuked for not having a register of temporary staff (of which I was one and had complained incessantly about it), so even the in-for-an-hour book-readers were made to sign in and out on a physical piece of paper that was collected for every drill afterwards. The fire services are not going to send people into a fire just because there's a *possible* risk... they want to know who, how many, ages, likely locations, etc. because a school is a big place for a fireman to be trapped in, even in a full-on fire suit and breathing apparatus.

I've been present at a real school fire (a canteen had their air conditioning catch fire - I have *no* idea how). It was tiny, the fire was small, controlled, in an outbuilding, extinguished within seconds... the very first thing that happened was that the fire engines arrived (EXTREMELY quickly, because they prioritise schools and hospitals) and before they even got their foot in the gates, they were asking for details of how successful the evacuation was. A single fireman put the fire out with nothing more than an ordinary fire extinguisher, but the chief of the 14 crew that arrived was interrogating the headteacher over their registers before they'd even seen a flame.

You need to be able to clear a school in under two-three minutes and know exactly who's supposed to be present - 1000 students, 100 staff, various visitors and temporary/part-time staff out within two minutes, with a complete record of who's missing (or present when they aren't recorded) is NOT impossible (or even that difficult with proper training) - I've seen it done. Even my wife's bookshop had the same needs when it was inside a large department store - you can't count the customers (obviously) but you have to ensure that all staff are out and that the store is and the only way is to have a physical list of staff and assign them to check *every* corner on their way out. You could be penalised or shut down if you didn't do this satisfactorily by the shopping mall owners.

I don't *care* if it's legally mandated or not... it's possible, it's easy and there's a DAMN good reason for doing so. Don't mess with fire drills - how many other things in your life are ordinary people and children asked to practice (by law in some cases)... this and airline emergency procedures. The difference between trained, recorded staff and chaos can easily cost them ALL (including you, whether you know what to do or not) their lives.

Side note: I'm rarely responsible for children in the schools I work, I have about one fire drill a year if I'm lucky and am often working in unfamiliar surroundings because of the nature of my work, but on the one occasion that the fire bell went off while I was supervising ten primary-school-age children (who all had headphones on in the middle of a computer lesson with loud music blaring) the timing was as follows:

0 seconds - Alarm rings
2 seconds - Alarm has rung long enough to distinguish it from a test, or lesson change, or other siren noise. (if it hadn't, I would have now been standing in the corridor looking out for signs or to ask other staff to investigate what it meant on my behalf).
4 seconds - Children's attention focused 100% on me without panic.
5 seconds - Instructions for headphones off, stand up behind chairs, don't bother to hang headphones up or shutdown or anything. Corridor checked personally by myself while they do this. Children head-counted (there is only one exit from the room they are in, and I'm standing in front of it, so I know they are all still there). List of children under my supervision in hand.
10 seconds - Every child has followed instructions to the letter. There is slight giggling, but no concern from the children. Instruction to queue in a line issued.
13 seconds - Children lined up. Corridor checked again. Instruction to follow me.
14 seconds - Watching front, back, sides of my line of kids, watching the ensuing chaos in the corridors (*other* children grabbing bags, coats, staff chasing them down the corridors - I can *still* hear chairs being pushed back as staff only just realise that it's a fire drill), children led to the nearest classroom through which is the nearest fire exit.
17 seconds - Arrive at classroom door, still at walking pace. Line check-counted again despite the fact that I've been watching them to make sure the line doesn't get broken up.
18 seconds - Classroom checked through door's glass window. ABSOLUTE chaos inside while the kids in there (under the supervision of the teacher and a TA) run back and forth and laugh and joke.
19 seconds - Classroom door open, my children led into class (past the chaos of a teacher trying to corale kids of the same year group into some vague order), counted in, door closed behind them.
25 seconds - All my children out the fire exit and moving onto the field.
30 seconds - *My* children standing in their class lines, giggling slightly with excitement, names checked, head's counted.

Ever see Kindergarten Cop? It was like that scene where he uses the whistle in the fire drill. These kids didn't know me at all and acted *perfectly*, I was lucky. But the procedure meant that if I was unlucky, and if *everybody* did the same, you'd have evacuated 450 and 50 staff in under a minute or, at worst, I'd have had plenty of time to gather wandering kids, find missing children, etc.

The *first* class (including the one I walked through) to assemble outside on the field came about 60 seconds later. The school wasn't "evacuated" for another 3:30. Checking registers etc. takes another 2-3 minutes even with three staff per class of 30. When it is declared safe and we return, the IT room is exactly as it was supposed to be - every computer was still logged on, there were items of clothing and personal possessions left behind, there wasn't *anything* that the kids did wrong. People are DUMB, though, and even some staff had coats, handbags, etc. Things elsewhere in the school were left on, doors left open, corridors were blocked with trolleys, etc. You have to WORK AROUND that when you have a fire drill, which means that you can easily lose kids in the chaos and have to backtrack and double-check and all sorts.

The rest of the day was spent with the teachers complaining about how their kids now have to resit their tests that they were doing on the computers.

I will admit to *always* being the first out on every fire drill. But, as just described, I do it properly EVERY SINGLE TIME. There's no reason not to. You're not going to get fired for downing tools in a fire drill (in fact, the opposite). You honestly don't know if it's a drill or not - even when it is a drill, it could easily become a real fire (think tough secondary schools: the kids think "Bugger it, the school's on fire, let's have some fun" and set light to the toilet block - I've worked in schools where it happens).

If there *was* a fire and someone who I *know* was sitting near me ended up dying in the fire, I don't want to have that on my mind, especially not children. Imagine that - you had 30 kids in your class, you get outside and there's only 29 - you'd want to kill yourself - it might take you minutes to work that out, who it is, more minutes to interrogate the children to find out who saw them last and where etc. Don't mess about - get out, check everything, do everything you know you're supposed to (like walk slowly, check doors, etc.) and KEEP RECORDS. 99.99999% of the time you'll have cost yourself a few seconds on a fire drill that you're being paid to go through anyway. The other 0.00001%, you've just saved someone's (possibly your own) life.

So, what you are REALLY saying is... (2, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089635)

You WILL get students with photocopies of their friend's faces (and/or other similarly low-tech solutions to allow the automated system to recognise and register them) in order to get out of lessons, lectures, etc. that they are made to attend.

(any identical twins go to that college, or even just two people who look alike?), potentially discriminatory (What if someone's face isn't recognised? What if they have disfigurement? What if they deliberately obscure their face or object to the system? Do you allow a bypass to that system for them?).

... that it is a great testbed for determining the flaws of the system and fine-tune it against deliberate ways of obscuring one's face or missidentification due to either deliberate attempts to present oneself as someone else or accidentally through changes in facial structure due to puberty?

What better group to test your system on then a bunch of teenagers.
They ARE smarter than anyone else anyway (or so they think) and it is in their nature to go against the system and find a way to "play it".
Plus their faces change through puberty on their own.

Perfect test subjects I'd say.

For the watchful... (2, Informative)

yibble (68787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089217)

Great, so we now have a picture of the student demoing the machine, and her PIN (6447). What did we learn today?

Re:For the watchful... (2, Funny)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089417)

.NET, C# and silverlight.

Brilliant! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089257)

"UK School Introduces Facial Recognition"

This is very good progress. It is important to keep up with the development of various sexual perversions in our modern fast-paced society. Therefore, recognizing facials as a new part of the curriculum of sexual education in schools is a good thing, even if only in one school in the UK for now. But it is a start, and hopefully facials are recognized soon in every school. It is about time to introduce the recognition of facials!

Re:Brilliant! (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089549)

First the UK, then later on, when they have the courage and the technology (Beowulf?) Japan!

CCTV in schools (2, Insightful)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089261)

There are also reports of schools installing CCTV cameras in UK classrooms to monitor both teachers and pupils. Very depressing stuff, that this is even considered, let alone allowed to go on.

All I can say is, I'm glad I went to school 10+ years ago. I wouldn't want to learn in such an invasive environment. It's disgusting, and those who think it's appropriate should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Re:CCTV in schools (3, Interesting)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089361)

And there is no money to renovate the buildings or hire more/better qualified personnel. But, there is money for tech to watch^H^H^H^H^Hspy. Says something about the priorities nowadays...

Re:CCTV in schools (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089407)

There are also reports of schools installing CCTV cameras in UK classrooms to monitor both teachers and pupils. Very depressing stuff, that this is even considered, let alone allowed to go on.

All I can say is, I'm glad I went to school 10+ years ago. I wouldn't want to learn in such an invasive environment. It's disgusting, and those who think it's appropriate should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

It seems to me that the UK is becoming a bigger surveillance society than East Germany was.

Right now, in Manchester UK (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089551)

Check this out: high def, remote controllable cameras and microphones in the classroom, with the head teacher monitoring teachers' every move. The teachers have an earpiece where they get instant criticism of their teaching methods, live. Sound like job satisfaction to you? You couldn't make it up:
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/education/s/1100128_class_cctv_comes_under_fire [manchester...news.co.uk]

Sounds like Manna to me. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089793)

Manna [marshallbrain.com]

Re:CCTV in schools (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089721)

In the last school I Tech'd at, there were CCTV cameras in the ICT suites. There were issues regarding students damaging property on a daily basis. This stopped it overnight.

You also have no idea how effective it is to assist parents in disciplining unruly children when they are faced with a video recording of them starting a fight. It empowers them beyond any backlash the child may have. Sometimes these systems are beneficial. You should stop making sweeping judgements.

Re:CCTV in schools (1)

AndyboyH (837116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089875)

At one of the schools my fiancee did supply work at, they had CCTV in the staff room. Not because they were worried about the staff's behavior - but because in the past few years several students had went into the staff room to assault the teachers.

The students didn't want to be there, and had very little intention of doing anything after leaving school except working the dole system for their own gain.

Re:CCTV in schools (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089951)

Quite a lot of schools have CCTV, out of the 171 I used to support I'd say around 95% had some CCTV and around 60% extended it into classrooms rather than just as a security tool. This was a couple of years back and I can't imagine the situation has improved.

There's an argument for CCTV, it's certainly one of the lesser issues in schools- I'd be more concerned about the ID cards some schools force students to have to be able to go to the toilet and that come with RFID tracking capabilites. Fingerprinting is also a bigger deal I'd argue.

It all comes down to the same tired old argument that it helps control the kids but really it doesn't, kids are as they've always been regardless. What would help control the kids is better teachers and that's the biggest issue in the majority of cases but it's not entirely the fault of teachers, it's very much partly down to the politically correct attitude of giving kids the benefit of the doubt and putting teachers at threat of suspension if they dare even do the slightest thing to upset little Timmy who just kicked someone and threw a bunch of books on the floor. This leaves the teachers somewhat powerless unless they just have good kid skills at talking to and calming down the most unruly kids but also by making the kids like them, good teachers with those kinds of qualities aren't overly common though.

Great! (1)

bursch-X (458146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089269)

How good to know that our tax money is spent in schools for things that benefit the education of our children! I think they should also introduce retina scans and millimeter wave scanners. That'll make all the difference at the next PISA test.

Re:Great! (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27090003)

I've been to schools that have had boxes of thousands upon thousands of pounds worth of software sat in not being used because the teachers didn't have time to install it all and couldn't afford to pay for technical time to get it installed (because they'd spent their IT money on the software).

I don't have a problem with the teachers not having time to install it, but I do have a problem with them buying it all in the first place knowing full well they wouldn't have time to install it, or at least not balancing out the software and support time to install what they did buy.

Laptops for teachers is arguably a more frustrating waste of money, one thing that really used to annoy me a little was when teachers would use their tax payer purchased laptop to play games, browse the internet and get infected with viruses so that it took more tax payers money to clean it all up and fix it all. Some of them just can't draw the distinction between something that has been bought for them by tax payers to use for work purposes and something they've paid for themselves to get viruses, install games and browse porn on.

Yeah this sounds like a waste of money, but in the grand scheme of wastes of money in UK schools it's nothing. Politicians have a habit of lying, but when you hear election promises of "We can save £20bn by efficiency improvements" they're not actually lying, technically they could probably save more than that by efficiency improvements across public sector and education. It's just a shame none of them have yet actually managed to put it into practice ;)

Yet another kettle of worms opened... (1)

misterjjones (1331965) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089281)

... Muslim head scarves / veils, anyone?

Re:Yet another kettle of worms opened... (2, Funny)

expat.iain (1337021) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089425)

... Muslim head scarves / veils, anyone?

Not for me, thanks. They don't match with my complexion.

Saving staff time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089287)

It may well do, but is there going to end up being a queue during peak times that just wasted the time of the staff and students.

Misleading summary (shock!) (4, Interesting)

NoNeeeed (157503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089299)

"A UK school has quietly introduced..."

If by "quietly" you mean, "telling everyone about how good it is and getting it in the press" then yes I guess so. Ahem. Did the submitter actually read the article they submitted?

It's worth RTFA and watching the short little video to see what the system does (I know, this is /. etc).

This is not some Big Brother style camera system covertly watching the students. This is a box on the wall which the students have to actively use to sign themselves in and out. They have to actively press buttons (well a touch screen) to use it.

While I am nervous about using biometrics for this sort of thing, the data being collected is exactly the same as would be recorded by the class register, the only difference is that it uses a computer rather than a teacher. Some schools have been using swipe-card systems for a few years, this is just a step up technologically.

There is a wider argument about the way schools are run, and the creeping use of biometrics, but this is primarily used to see who is in the building if there is a fire, so I'm not really sure that the "OMG, BIG BROTHER!1!!!!1!!" spin is warranted.

Especially since they have not exactly kept it quiet.

Re:Misleading summary (shock!) (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089369)

this is primarily used to see who is in the building if there is a fire, so I'm not really sure that the "OMG, BIG BROTHER!1!!!!1!!" spin is warranted.

Especially since they have not exactly kept it quiet.

Any system to be used in the event of a fire *cannot* be optional, or under the control of those subjected to it. Thats a fact, one learned the hard way in the past, that cannot be argued. Give people the option of not doing something, and they won't, at least not always, because 'nothings going to happen'.

big brother is not the issue here (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089381)

The issue seems:
1. that the system can possibly be tricked, meaning you'll have conflicting data
2. Possible dangers (you walk into the building, but forget to register - a fire breaks out and nobody comes to search for you because the system says you're not there)
3. that it might not be necessary to have the system in the first place - people are pretty good at face recognition last time I checked

There is no privacy in school anyway, with teachers watching you all the time... so this is no concern at all.

Re:Misleading summary (shock!) (2, Informative)

Plunky (929104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089631)

If by "quietly" you mean, "telling everyone about how good it is and getting it in the press" then yes I guess so. Ahem. Did the submitter actually read the article they submitted?

There is a difference between 'quietly introduced' and 'announced its launch'

You can scheme quietly to make something happen that you know will be controversial, then implement it and announce the fait accompli. The amount of objections to cause a deinstallation will be vastly more than the amount of objections needed to prevent its installation in the first place.

Re:Misleading summary (shock!) (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089639)

"Quietly introduced" means without consultation before the introduction. It was the introduction that went quietly. Learned that in a school without this stuff and English isn't even my first or second language.

Re:Misleading summary (shock!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089755)

Great way to spread germs.

Re:Misleading summary (shock!) (1)

Penguin_me (792623) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089851)

Actually the "quietly" was referring to this article being a very small piece in a local newspaper, with no other coverage anywhere of it being planned or implemented. And yes, I did read the article before I submitted it.

Re:Misleading summary (shock!) (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089935)

Mandatory facial recognition is not "OMG, BIG BROTHER!1!!!!1!!"?

And war is peace?

Coming soon... (0, Troll)

WhiteHorse-The Origi (1147665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089317)

All schools will have the teachers behind bullet-proof glass with microphones/speakers. Every student will submit their work through document feeds and must make appointments to see teachers. Furthermore, after scores are tallied, individual students will be assigned permanent roles in society such as "butcher", "baker", etc. Anyone who works in roles other than their designation will have their biometric identity cancelled and will have to go to labor camps.

How large are those schools?? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089339)

Even with 1000 students, teachers will personally know the pupils soon enough.

When I was still in school, and you didn't show up, the teachers found out soon enough. The
system seemed unbeatable.

You might be able to fool a computer, but people (teachers) are very good at finding out who is in class, and who is not. Also, people are better at face recognition than any computer.

Are pupils really just a number in that school?

Will the economic crisis save freedom? (1)

Exitar (809068) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089347)

I've read somewhere that UK financial situation is quite bad recently (similar to Iceland).
Any chance they'll bankrupt and cut founds to such silly projects?

Re:Will the economic crisis save freedom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089523)

Well, if Germany before WWII is any indication, bad economy can be succesfully used as an excuse to institute a totalitarian regime, so I wouldn't bet on UK reducing surveilance.

Re:Will the economic crisis save freedom? (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089567)

Um, no. The *world* economy is in the toilet. The UK is arguably in a similar state to the US: it's not comparable to Iceland.
Besides, look at history: when did a recession last breed peace and freedom?

What problem, exactly, is solved by this? (3, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089375)

Sixth-formers will now have their faces scanned as they arrive in the morning at the City of Ely Community College. Face Register uses the latest high-tech gadgets to register students in and out of school in just 1.5 seconds.

Erm... what problem is being solved by this?

If you want to know whether the kids are in class, as opposed to in school, you have to look in every classroom. Except that it doesn't really work; you have to look where the students are supposed to be, which the system may not know (or be able to adapt to).

Is it fire safety and evacuation? So you have one of these machines at every exit, and it can perfectly well identify everyone in a screaming running horde of people?

It doesn't seem to solve any useful problem. Does anyone know what it's intended to accomplish, and whether it actually accomplishes anything?

What good is this system.. (1)

pisto_grih (1165105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089379)

..unless it's implemented in EVERY classroom? It's all very well knowing the students are on campus, but generally a register is to monitor who was actually IN class.

Yes, I work in a sixth form college, so I know how registers work.

Re:What good is this system.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089563)

..unless it's implemented in EVERY classroom? It's all very well knowing the students are on campus, but generally a register is to monitor who was actually IN class.

Well then I think it is time for some sort of sub-dermal implant to track the little buggers.

All in the name of public safety, think of the children. What is that you say? Can you remove the implant once you've graduated? No you can't, it discharges a deadly electrical current through your heart when you try, but don't worry we promise we won't use the implant to track you after you leave school. We promise. *cheesy grin*

Fire in the server room. (2, Informative)

Martin_Stevens (1490131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089395)

"Only today (Thursday, 05 March) we had a fire alarm test and the administration staff were able to quickly and effectively print data off from the system showing who was on site." You gotta say it's lucky that there wasn't a fire in the server room. I can just imagine getting a tech support call during a fire saying "my printers not working"

Brilliant idea (1)

KlausBreuer (105581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089401)

Get them used to having their faces scanned. Get them used to the state collecting info that way, and storing your appearances anywhere.
Get them used to being scanned, watched. They'll need it.

And for heavens sake, ban the "1984" book.

Well, I guess face recognition isn't AI anymore... (2, Interesting)

javilon (99157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089431)

...Every time AI researches find a working algorithm for something that the human mind does, the ability coded on that algorithm stops being thought of as "Intelligence" and becomes "just a calculation that any computer can do".

So I guess pattern recognition in images is not AI anymore, right?

"in and out of school in just 1.5 seconds." (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089447)

well, i don't know about nowadays. but in my school it took me exactly 0.00 seconds to get in and out. is this any better than that?

Fingerprints (1)

TheP4st (1164315) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089459)

Next they'll probably follow the lead of a Swedish school that use fingerprint scanners in the canteen as a method of avoiding non-students freeloading. Amazingly since they first introduced this at the school in 1997 only 10 students have refused fingerprinting.
http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_1673627.svd [www.svd.se] (Swedish article)

1.5 seconds.. how many millions did this cost? (3, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089475)

I can sign my name in 1.5 seconds, and type it even faster.

I can depress my thumb onto a (now 2 decade old) biometric reader for the same result in the same amount of time.

This is an excellent example of stupidly wasted money.

Heck, even if its tied to stimulus spending, the new deal wasn't just about putting people to work, but putting people to work building infrastructure which would improve the efficiency and cut the costs to businesses in the long term.

This does not do either.

If it's not tied to stimulus spending this school should be chastised for buying this expensive system in a time when a few more jobs would be more valuable to the community.

Until... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089569)

Some of those kids are going to get into a schoolyard brawl and have to be excused for the next week until their black eyes recede sufficiently for the system to let them in again. :P

perfect alibi! (1)

Kaukomieli (993644) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089771)

Sign in, sneak out, wreak havoc - and prove you were at school when it happened. priceless!

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