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Fingers do the talking at class roll call

Irish school introduces biometric fingerprint scanner to keep tabs on truants.

A school in Ireland is testing biometric fingerprint readers in a bid to stamp out truancy.

St. Andrew's College, a K-12 school, is having some students sign up for TruancyGuard--a technology that reads fingerprints without recording them entirely. Adrenalin, the company behind the software, says it protects children's identities by only recording certain "interesting" parts of the fingerprint and discarding the rest of the data.

Teachers at the school said they like the system because it allows them to avoid registering children and spend more time doing other things.

Rob Micallef, a teacher at the school, said: "The class are very interested and excited about their role in this project. On my part, I find I can now spend extra time with the class making sure they are aware of upcoming events in the school and dealing with everyday issues facing the busy pupils. Moving the responsibility of registration to the pupils empowers them and frees up my time to deal with more important issues facing the students today."

If a child does not turn up at school, parents receive a text message. Parents or staff can also monitor pupil attendance via a secure Web site. For example, when a student logs in, the information is immediately visible online or on an automated telephone system, which uses menus with items such as "Press 1 for latest attendance statistics."

John Beckett, managing director of Adrenalin, said: "Some people hold reservations about allowing their biometric information to be stored. We have worked hard to ensure this problem is dealt with adequately. This method has the same secure results as full fingerprint storage, but protects the individuals' privacy through the nonrecording of their unique fingerprints."

Dan Ilett of reported from London.