Nine schools in North Ayrshire are set to start using facial recognition software to allow pupils to pay for their lunches.

Beginning today, the system scans the faces of pupils at the tills in order to save time during the busy lunch hour.

It checks them off against a register of faces stored on the school’s servers and replaces the software that used fingerprint scanners.

The company that installed the systems claim they are more Covid-secure and help speed up the queue, with each transaction now taking just five seconds.

However, the new technology has got a grilling under a national spotlight and came under criticism by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

“It’s normalising biometric identity checks for something that is mundane. You don’t need to resort to airport-style [technology] for children getting their lunch,” said Silkie Carlo of the campaign group Big Brother Watch.

According to North Ayrshire Council's FAQ for the software, the technology turns the child's physical characteristics into 'unique digital signature' to prevent cash from being lost or stolen. 

However, the authority has given parents the option to 'opt out' and use a pin card instead. 

North Ayrshire council said that 97 per cent of children or their parents had given consent for the new system. “Pupils often forget their PINs and unfortunately some have also been the victim of PIN fraud, so they are supportive of the planned developments and appreciate the benefits to them,” the council said.

Councillor Jim Montgomerie, Cabinet Member for Green New Deal and Sustainability, said: “After the October school break we will be changing to a new provider, however, the service will remain the same for all our children and young people. Anyone with a balance on their current ParentPay system will have it transferred automatically to the new IPay system.

“The pre-order function should make the lunch service quicker and reduce queuing time for pupils. It will also ensure that children get the menu item(s) of their choice.

“The added benefit of the optional facial recognition element will mean the payment of snacks and meals in school will be more secure and faster.”