The shocking texts and letters being sent by schools trying to identify ‘non-British’ children [TWEETS]

John Ranson

The government has introduced new requirements for schools to gather information on the country of birth and nationality of pupils. As a result, some schools are demanding proof in the form of birth certificates and passport numbers, as critics warn against allowing schools to become “mini-immigration offices”.

The 6 October is when schools must submit their 2016 school census data to be stored on the National Pupil Database. At 7:22pm the previous evening, parent Tim Colbourne received this text:

This was a last minute follow-up to a letter the school had sent out earlier:

Schools around the country have sent out their own versions of the letter, and the response from parents has generally been a mixture of surprise and concern, with some querying whether this could be an early symptom of Brexit.

The campaign group Against Borders for Children has called on parents to boycott the data collection process and has written a letter, supported by over 20 organisations, to Education Secretary Justine Greening. The boycott is a protest against the perceived discrimination in the census. Education magazine Schools Week discovered that some schools were sending different messages home depending on the colour of children’s skin, with non-white people having passport details demanded as a matter of urgency.

At the heart of the issue are the changes which the government has made to the school census for 2016. The new data items (1.4 on page 10 of the guidelines [pdf]) include proficiency in English, country of birth, and nationality. Ethnicity data, which used to be limited to over-5s, must now be gathered for all ages, including nursery school children.

Tim Colbourne, the parent who received the eleventh-hour text, has a particular perspective on these changes, given his former role as ex-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s deputy chief of staff:

And it’s this potentially toxic atmosphere that campaigners and critical commentators want to see nipped in the bud.

But Schools Week editor Laura McInerney points out that parents actually have the right to refuse the information being demanded of them. There is a category of answer which schools can submit, where the information is not supplied. She makes her position clear:

Schools should not make parents show their children’s passports. For anything.

That’s a really simple rule. It’s also a rule the Department for Education won’t write that clearly. I don’t know why. But it should.

She calls on headteachers to ensure that passport details are not collected and that apologies are issued if such demands have been mistakenly made in the past. She is not opposed to all data collection. In fact, she supports it where there is a clear benefit for educational analysis. But this must be carried out in a sensitive and, above all, optional manner if schools are to avoid becoming “mini-immigration offices”.

Get Involved!

– Against Borders for Children has a template letter if you wish to contact your MP.

– Speak to your local school to make sure they know that parents can refuse to answer.

– Read more Canary articles about education.

– Consider supporting The Canary if you appreciate what we do.

Featured image via Pixnio

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