Ellie Ames 22 September 2023

Concern over Bristol schools’ app use to monitor children

Concern over Bristol schools’ app use to monitor children image
Image: Yau Ming Low / shutterstock.com

Campaign groups have accused Bristol schools who use an app to monitor pupils and their families of ‘intrusive monitoring’.

Through the Think Family Education (TFE) app, safeguarding leads and pastoral teams in education settings can access information from Bristol City Council and Avon and Somerset Police, including about a child’s or their family’s contact with police, child protection and welfare services.

The app also sends automated alerts of young people profiled as ‘at risk’ of criminal activity, criminal justice watchdog Fair Trials has found.

The TFE app is used by more than 100 primary and secondary schools in Bristol without the knowledge or consent of children or their families, Fair Trials has said, although some information about the system is publicly available.

Director of the Institute of Race Relations Liz Fekete said children as young as four were ‘targeted for “intrusive monitoring” and algorithmic predictive policing around the risk of future criminality.’

She described ‘a biased and reckless multi-agency safeguarding approach that stigmatises whole families’ and raised concerns about the app’s collation of information on children who speak English as an additional language.

Ms Fekete said: ‘It’s frankly astounding that council leaders could think that such an app has any role to play in education settings. This is nothing less than institutional racism in action.’

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: ‘The introduction of the Think Family Education App now means that schools, who are an essential part of the safeguarding system in Bristol, have access to appropriate information in a secure and restricted way to make decisions about how they support children.’

Fair Trials said it had been told of intentions to expand the system to schools across other local authorities.

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