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Schools are becoming like Black Mirror - it's time to roll back technology

PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:29 13 July 2019

Fingerprint scanning at another Norfolk school. Picture: Archant

Fingerprint scanning at another Norfolk school. Picture: Archant

copyright of Archant 2009 01603 772434

When exactly did going to school become like Black Mirror?

I remember the days of dinner money, book-bags, letters home to parents, and using a pen and paper to do homework.

Judging by the progress of most of my schoolmates, and by those of my grown-up children, the simple systems worked well for a long while.

Now it seems that school is becoming an Orwellian nightmare.

It's apogee - or nadir, in my opinion - is fingerprint scanning being used for pupils paying for school meals. This is probably happening at a school near you.

A friend of mine with children at two schools said: "I don't know a parent who doesn't feel harangued by schools."

She tells of having to pay into an online account for school meals, trips and other expenses. The children then use fingerprint recognition to pay for their meals.

At no point do the pupils encounter actual hard cash - so how will they understand the value of money if they never see it, and just debit their parents' school account by putting their pinky on a scanner?

The parents have the pressure of remembering to top up the account - otherwise you get something similar to the scenario reported this week at Alderman Peel High in Wells, where children went hungry because the fingerprint system had a snag.

And, while in the glorious days of old we could give our children just enough money for their lunch, now they can go for double chips, topped with chocolate custard and a sprinkling of caviar and shaved truffle, without a care.

The parents are helpless and out of pocket.

It's not good news for bullies like Gripper Stebson on Grange Hill, who made a mint nicking dinner money from smaller children.

Now, with children being like the Queen - carrying no cash - the only way to extort would be to cut off their fingers to use their prints for biometric recognition on the drinks dispenser.

No, I'm not actually advocating this, as when fingers leave the mothership they decompose. Oh, and it's violent crime.

For parents, the nightmare never ends.

Most, if not all, of the homework, study guidance, school trips and progress reports are online, accessed with a password on an app on a tablet.

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My friend added that there was "constant pressure to monitor" the information - and also a direct debit to the school to pay for the iPad.

It all means that parents - most of whom work, and all of whom have stressful lives - can never switch off: the information, pressure and expectation are relentless. The iPad pings with a notification, and no decent parent dares ignore it, in case it's news of another mufti day (which will cost a quid, of course), or dressing up for World Book Day - which usually costs money and precious time.

Oh, and then they get the "suggested payments" - the passive-aggressive promptings for voluntary contributions of £30 to support design and technology, or £20 to pay for hockey balls.

It's a digital and online pot-pourri of progress that is actually taking us all backwards.

It encourages isolation, lack of human contact, relentless hours spent staring at screens, and takes parents and carers to the point of a breakdown (and beyond).

For everybody's sake, could things please be simplified?

Bring back actual dinner money, which encourages maths and economic awareness (if you haven't got enough wedge, you can't buy wedges).

Also, send letters home about special events, school trips, charity days, etc - with, God bless 'em, reply slips.

And how about occasionally doing homework on paper, so that mum or dad can see it properly and get involved in the learning process?

I don't think a few quires of paper will destroy the planet any more quickly than the constant charging of iPads to access school apps.

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