A new fingerprint scanning system used to register pupils at an Oxford school has been met with a furious response.

Cheney School in Headington is testing a £20,000 biometric register and students, parents and councillors are concerned about having the prints on record.

But headteacher Alan Lane has insisted it is not a sinister 'big brother' move.

City councillor Claire Kent found out about the system from her children, who attend the school.

She said: "They were told the data is not being shared with anyone else - but I don't believe that.

"I think it's wrong. We are getting very close to a police state with all the information the Government keeps on us."

One sixth-form pupil, who did not want to be named, said: "I don't like the fact that they have my fingerprints on file. I don't know what they could do with it.

"It's extreme and a waste of money - the old register worked fine."

Her mother was unhappy that she had heard nothing from the school.

She said: "It is something I would have liked to have been consulted on. What are they doing with the information? I'm very anxious that it doesn't get abused."

Pupils can choose to have a Pin number - but there are always large queues for the two Pin machines.

Mr Lane said parents were informed of the scheme through the newsletter and letters were sent to the parents of younger pupils.

He also promised there was no possibility of the information being misused.

He said: "There is no storage of the fingerprints. This is nothing to do with the police or a national fingerprint database."

Instead, a unique code - or algorithm - is calculated from the fingertip and stored in a database.

The algorithm is checked against the database each time a pupil presses one of 24 touchpads around the school.

Mr Lane said: "There is no way anyone can find out the fingerprint from the code."

The school used a grant from the Government's Excellence In Cities programme to install the system.

It hopes to cut down on inaccuracies and make pupils responsible for their own registration.

The biometric registration, which is currently being used by pupils in the three eldest years, is to be rolled out to the rest of the school's 1,500 pupils over the next six to 12 months.

Mr Lane said: "It has been experimental. We are evaluating its use to see what the pluses and minuses are and whether it is worth investing in for other schools."