So much for liberte, egalite, fraternite

Britain is not the only place where ministerial talk of pupil databases and identifying potential criminals is beginning to sound Orwellian.

Several secondary schools in France have received circulars, marked with the logos of the country's education and interior ministries, informing them that they are to become "laboratory lycees" for a computerised pupil supervision system called Scolaris.

The letters say that Scolaris will involve closed circuit TV, biometric identity cards for pupils and will link schools with juvenile remand centres.

They go on to say that a sinister-sounding "serenity committee" will unite school staff with on-site police forces to head off crime, monitor discipline, instil citizenship and gather information on the children of illegal immigrants.

Luckily, it has turned out to be a sophisticated hoax, despite the fact that it makes references to an actual scheme to award points according to pupils' behaviour, designed by Gilles de Robien, France's education minister.

The real education ministry has issued a warning spelling out that "no orders have ever been given to schools to set up computerised controls based on magnetised cards or any other system".

Scolaris may be French satire, but it is all too easy to imagine a UK version. We give Capita six months.

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