We wish to inform you of some of the systems that are in place in St. Columb’s College.

System (1) ParentPay

St Columb’s College uses ParentPay as a method of payment within the school.  This is a secure epayment method which can be accessed through a secure website, ParentPay, using your debit card or credit card.  You can also use the PayPoint method.  Further information on this is available on the school website.  This system is used in most schools in the city so you may already be familiar with the procedure.  Once your child’s account has been topped up or credited your son then pays for all items using a finger image. To set up the ParentPay system we will issue you with a logon and password. This will be sent to you, along with other literature, during the summer holidays.

St Columb’s College uses a biometric system.  It enables students to:

• Pay for their food in the Canteen and Link Area from funds they have loaded onto their account;

• Pay for books/stationery in the Bookpress;

• Borrow books from the Library.

A biometric image is a unique feature to an individual. This makes the biometric image the most reliable kind of personal identification system as it cannot be forgotten, misplaced or stolen.  A biometric system provides each student with a unique system with a mathematical algorithm which translates his fingerprint into a 13 digit number. This number is the unique reference for accessing each account. This information cannot be accessed by anyone outside the system or used or transferred outside the school.

Free School Meals

Please note that students entitled to free school meals will have their account credited on a daily basis and this is accessible with the use of the biometric image.

We assure you that we comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act; we will process the data lawfully and fairly; we will use it only for the purposes listed previously; we will keep it only for a pupil’s time in the school and it will be kept safe and secure within our managed system.


1. What happens if somebody steals a backup of the school's database? Won't they then have everybody's fingerprint image?

Every Biometric database is uniquely encrypted. If a school's security is compromised and a backup of the database is stolen, the data will be unreadable, even by another school.

2. If my child is fingerprinted can the police use the fingerprint?

We do not store a fingerprint image in our database, so our system cannot be used for forensic identification.

3. Does Biometrics record images of fingerprints?

It is the policy of Suprema (biometrics image database) never to store images of fingerprints anywhere on their system. Only mathematical representations of certain points of interest are recorded, typically between ten and forty depending on the characteristics of the finger. This information is encrypted and is called a template. This data is extremely secure in its encrypted form but even if it were not encrypted it is impossible to recreate the original fingerprint image from this data.

4. Can an image be recreated from the stored data?

No. The system uses a short string of encrypted numbers – too little to provide enough detail for the original print to be reconstructed.

5. Can the information held be used to identify someone in a court of law?

Suprema (Biometrics) only records templates to an accuracy that can discriminate among populations of hundreds or a few thousand people. In the wider population the accuracy of the system is such that it could not be used for forensic matching with any degree of certainty and a court of law has never and could never use this information as evidence.

6. If I lose my bank card then it can be replaced, but I can’t replace my finger. If a template is stolen, have I lost my identity forever?

The answer is no. The image template stored in the database is merely a string of encrypted numbers. If this string of numbers were to be removed from the database, it would be useless, because it cannot be recognized as a fingerprint. A fingerprint scanner checks for a real finger – it does not recognize a string of numbers, unlike a bank machine, which will accept a bank card from anybody who happens to know the PIN number.

7. I have heard that Suprema (Biometrics) is a central database. Where is the information kept?

The Suprema database is stored on the school ’s own computer.

8. My child is going to be fingerprinted and I strongly object. How will they get their lunch or use the library?

The school will issue your child with an alternative method of identification, such as a pin code, which can be used in the canteen or library.