As a result of new government requirements, schools are collecting data on the birthplace and nationality of students through letters and texts to parents. But for father Famillie Gerstner, with a child at the Hilton Primary school in Derby, that amounts to “racial profiling”. And he isn’t having it:
Gerstner’s response contains a series of brilliant jokes often centring on the 2016 Conservative Party Conference.
When the letter asks “class?”, Gerstner replies “Libertarian elite”, mocking Theresa May’s conference speech comment blaming the liberal elite along with “left-wing human rights lawyers” for societal woes.
Asked for his family’s home language, he listed “love”, a universal language that, significantly, transcends borders.
And Gerstner kept it lighthearted with his final pun. When the letter asked “mother tongue?”, he replied: “average size”.
Echoing comparisons between Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s speech on immigration and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Gerstner responded to “Date?” with “guessing March 1933” and to “Nationality?” with “starting to resemble 1930s Germany”.
He signed his name as “human being”.
Worrying government requirements
At the heart of the issue are the changes 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 fives, must now be gathered for all ages, including nursery school children.
A Department for Education spokeswoman claimed:
Collecting this data will help ensure our children receive the best possible education.
It will be used to help us better understand how children with, for example, English as an additional language perform in terms of their broader education, and to assess and monitor the scale and impact immigration may be having on the schools sector.
But Tim Colbourne, a parent who received a census letter of his own, has an insider perspective on these changes, given his former role as ex-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s deputy chief of staff:
I used to work in gvt, saw the genesis of this. Part of a Home Office push to create a 'hostile environment' for immigration.
— Tim Colbourne (@twrc) October 5, 2016
Even if a ‘hostile environment’ wasn’t the aim, it’s foreseeable that it could well be the outcome.
Parents unite against discrimination
Gerstner is not the only parent hitting back at the government requirements. Many self-reported their acts of protest on social media, under the hashtag #BoycottSchoolCensus.
— Hannahfootlady (@Hfootlady) October 9, 2016
And as Schools Week editor Laura McInerney points out, parents actually have the right to refuse the information being demanded of them.
— Robert Stearn (@RobertStearn) October 6, 2016
And indeed, identifying foreign pupils will not solve the teaching recruitment crisis. Nor will it help failing schools. The new census simply amounts to dog-whistle politics obscuring the true culprit: Tory austerity. From 2010, the coalition government cut the education budget by 25% over four years. Teachers need to be well paid and require high skills. That would make the industry more competitive, attracting the best.
Logging foreign pupils will only succeed in creating a hostile climate for immigrants. More parents should respond to the census like Gerstner did with his letter.
– 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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