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All pupils will be just a number now

Work has started on giving every pupil aged 13 and over a unique learner number, allowing teachers and future employers to check their qualifications on an online database. The system will use data collected in last year's school census.

Most teenagers who start on the new diploma courses this September are expected to be issued with one of the unique numbers, but the database is not due to be fully comprehensive until 2010.

The learner number will remain for life, unlike the unique pupil number, introduced in 1999, which is deleted when young people leave compulsory education. The numbers will be necessary for those doing diplomas, as many different institutions may need to contibute information to such records.

The creators of the online database say it will act as a "tamper-proof" online CV, listing schools and colleges the pupils attended as well as their grades in exams, but it will not include details of any exclusions they may have been given.

Work to set up the system, known as the Managing Information Across Partners programme, began in 2002 as a way of reducing bureaucracy in post-16 education. The TES reported concerns among civil liberties groups in 2004. The programme, overseen by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), went online in a trial last year for 60 colleges and training providers, who have uploaded 27,000 records.

The National Union of Students is concerned the scheme could prove the basis for a national ID card.

But David Russell, the LSC's national director of resources, said: "The service does not collect any new information. It allows education institutions, awarding bodies and government agencies and the Government to share information that already exists and may have been collected several times over."

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