PERSONAL details of 9,000 school pupils has been stolen from the home of a Barnet Council worker, it has been revealed.

Twenty unauthorised and unencrypted CDs and memory sticks with details including names, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers and school attainment were taken from the house a fortnight ago.

An encrypted council laptop was also taken in the raid, which council officials say was not targeted but a random burglary.

The data relates to school survey information for 9,000 Year 11 pupils in Barnet secondary schools in the academic years 2006/7, 07/08 and 08/09, aged between 14-18.

A member of the schools service has been suspended for breaching council policy by making the unprotected copies.

Letters have been sent to parents and past pupils today informing them of the breach.

The council says only one vulnerable child could be directly identified through the details and their carers have already been informed.

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Chief Executive Nick Walkley said the information had taken two weeks to emerge because security checks had to be undertaken and stringent measures had been put in place already to prevent similar incidents.

He said: “We have responded in an extremely timely manner, the priority was safeguarding issues about identifying in these records individuals who could be vulnerable and taking action.

“My message to parents is two fold. This should not be a case for concern relating to safeguarding.

“Secondly, the council is very concerned where information held in trust, that we're able to to hold that information securely. That has not been the case here.”

He said the breach has been reported to the Information Commissioner and the staff member would be facing “full disciplinary procedures” and stressed the data involved would not be right for identity theft.

“Within 24-hours of finding out about it we instated draconian rules around data security. We shut down every software device, USB drive and CD copiers,” he added.

“There will be a full independent inquiry led by someone from outside the authority reporting directly to me to make sure these were the actions of an individual contravening council policy.

“When I walked the floor to talk about this the broad response of staff was why would someone put the council's data at risk?”

Staff have been ordered to hand over any council USB device or any unsecured data they may have taken themselves before Easter, or face disciplinary proceedings themselves.

Mr Walkley said the laptop stolen from the house could not be hacked by the thieves because it had a double password and conformed to government guidelines.

Information included in the disks is pupil's names, gender, date of birth, postcode, unique identification number, free school meals eligibility, in-care indicator, language, gifted and talented indicator, mode of travel to school, entry date to school, special educational needs, school, attainment data for english, maths and science at end of Year 9 and attendance rate.

Certain children also had their addresses and ethnicity included in the data.

It is collected in the student survey for the government to compare educational development within broad groups.

A questions and answer section has been put up on the Barnet Council website and an advice line has been set up for pupils or parents with concerns.

Have you bee affected by this? Contact reporter Alex Hayes on or call 07795 223 610.