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Smart card offers ring of security

A card small enough to fit into a schoolchild's hand could be the answer to security problems at a sprawling comprehensive.

It can be used to allow access to the buildings and its classrooms with just a swipe through a computerised lock.

"And we would know exactly who is coming and going because a central computer would log the movements," said Ian Bowmaker, head of Rhodesway comprehensive in Bradford. "No one could get into the school without one. If any one of the cards is lost or stolen it would simply be written out of the computer and replaced."

The school, which has 1,350 pupils, is already piloting a personalised card designed to eliminate the need for children to carry cash for meals. It's just a short step to adapt its use to include security measures.

Each pupil has one of the cards which has a computerised chip attached to it and also a photograph of its user. "Companies have the same security systems why not schools? It's a matter of deciding which system to use and working out the logistics. I am hoping it will be in place by the spring term."

Such security is being introduced not only to help prevent extreme incidents such as the Dunblane killings but also to combat burglary.

News of the introduction of the swipe card has brought reaction from Liberty, the civil liberties lobby organisation. Its Leeds secretary Terry Thomas has written to the school expressing its concern that children are being "softened up" to accept the introduction of ID cards.

Mr Bowmaker disagrees. He believes swipe cards are only preparing children for something they will find already in operation in industry and other areas of everyday life.

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