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Schools stop collection of pupils’ nationality data

02/07/18

Latest guidelines on school census remove requirement and tell schools not to retain the information

Schools have been told to no longer record every pupil’s nationality and country of birth, after a huge outcry and calls for a parental boycott.

Boys in school uniformsHowever, historic data gathered since the policy was introduced in October 2016 will not be deleted by the Department for Education (DfE), which will retain it for research purposes.

The climbdown has been revealed in a guide to the school census - the statutory survey of students that takes place three times a year - released by the DfE.

It says: “Schools must no longer request this information from parents, or retain the data within their system, for purpose of transmitting to the department via the school census.”

To defend the retention of historic data, the department has pointed to periodic reviews it will carry out to argue that it will not be retained for longer than necessary.

It comes after a controversy that blew up when it emerged that DfE had made an agreement to pass on details of 1,500 children a month to the Home Office for immigration enforcement.

Border guards

Campaigners, including the human rights group Liberty, protested that the data could be made available to immigration officials, in effect turning school administrators into “border guards”.

Reports also emerged of staff wrongly demanding to see copies of passports and asking parents to confirm their child's immigration status.

Gracie Bradley, advocacy manager for Liberty, described the new development as a “huge victory” - but said it was “shameful it took a nationwide boycott and legal action for this toxic policy to end”.

She added that it was “disgraceful they are not deleting the data they did manage to collect”.

Last year, the Government was forced to stop information about nationality being passed to the Home Office and parents who previously provided the information were promised the right to retract it.  

The passing of pupils’ nationality data to the Home Office formed part of Theresa May’s “hostile environment”, designed to trap suspected illegal immigrants. However, it backfired by hoovering up large numbers of people who have lived legally in the country for many decades, most notoriously members of the Windrush generation of immigrants from the Caribbean.

Admissions penalties

Last year, it was revealed that May, as home secretary, had wanted to use data from immigration checks to penalise children living in the country illegally in school admissions decisions. The future prime minister proposed carrying out the checks on all pupils, with the intention for the children of illegal immigrants to be sent to the back of the queue when schools made admissions choices, to encourage their parents to leave the country.

But the plan was blocked by David Cameron after Nicky Morgan, the then-education secretary, made a strong protest.

Information on children's gender, name, date of birth and school address will still be gathered up into the National Pupil Database.

Image by mattbuck, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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