A COMPUTER containing information about thousands of school children has been stolen from education headquarters.

Burglars targeted Progress House, the main offices of Wigan Council’s Children and Young People’s Services, and took several laptop computers.

Among them was one which contained information from one of the authority’s main school improvement databases.

However the information is password protected and bosses believe that the information will be of little use to those who stole the computer.

Wigan Council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Services Nick Hudson, said: “This database includes information on most children and young people in Year 3 and above.

“The information includes names, dates of birth, postcodes, ethnicity and, where applicable, details of any special educational needs or eligibility for free school meals.

“There is also data on achievement in national curriculum assessments, which is the main purpose of the database.”

It is believed that the database contains information on up to 33,000 children and young people.

CYPS bosses are currently in the process of writing to the parents and carers of all those affected.

Police in Wigan have been informed and are investigating the break-in.

Mr Hudson said: “Apart from the names, the data on the children is in the form of numbers and codes and there are no comments or individual case note.

“We think it is unlikely that the thieves have tried to access the data, which is password protected.

“We have taken the step of informing the public of the borough about the theft because we believe people deserve to know what has happened.

“We believe that this information will be of no use or interest to the people who stole the computer and it is possible that it has already been deleted.

“However we are investigating this incident thoroughly and we are working very hard to learn the lessons and to ensure that our children’s privacy is protected as well as possible in the future.”

The theft has also been reported to the national Information Commissioner’s Office, which will produce a report that will include any steps that should be taken to prevent any future such losses of data.

Anyone with information about the burglary or the whereabouts of the stolen laptops is urged to contact the police.

Parents who have concerns about the incident can contact Wigan Council’s Children and Young People’s Services Department on 01942 486123 or 01942 486124.