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Parents are being urged to withhold details of their child’s nationality and country of birth from a census, which human rights campaigners say is being used against them to police Britain’s borders.
From September, parents, guardians and carers in England are being asked to state if their children are foreign nationals in the Early Years and School Census.
The Department of Education (DfE) has asked childminders, nurseries, schools and colleges to collect the country-of-birth and nationality data for children aged from two to 19-years-old.
The data collected for the first time this year, could result in children and their parents being targeted by Home Office officials warn campaigners, who are urging parents to boycott the census.
On 26 September, Against Borders for Children (ABC) a coalition of parents, teachers, schools and campaigners, wrote to the education secretary Justine Greening, asking her to scrap the requirement for schools to collect the information, on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy of children and families.
The letter, which has been signed by 20 campaign groups including the human rights group Liberty, affects eight million children in England.
'It is insidious to be targeting kids'
Bella Sankey, the policy director of Liberty, said: “Hostile-environment policies are deeply problematic.
“They outsource immigration enforcement to private citizens and public sector workers whose roles have nothing to do with border control.
“This latest wave of reforms targets sensitive public services like healthcare and education. It is insidious to be targeting the kids and risks making them additionally vulnerable if they are then kept away from school.”
The first census of the 2016/17 academic year will take place on 6 October. The DfE has said the data will be added to the National Pupil Database (NPD) which contains the named, personal, confidential data of all pupils within the English education system since 2002.
The DfE has said the data will not be passed onto the Home Office, however a freedom of Information request answered by the DfE has revealed that since April 2012, the Home Office has submitted 20 requests for information to the NPD. Of these 18 were granted and only two were refused because the NPD did not contain the information requested.
Campaigners are urging parents to boycott requests for disclose of their child’s nationality and country of birth.
'Parents and educators can legally join boycott'
On its website, ABC states: “Providing this data is optional and does not affect school funding. This means parents and schools can legally work together to withhold this information from DfE.”
ABC has said educators and families must take action to protect children by ‘refusing to answer’ the questions on the grounds that: “this policy is unnecessary, divisive and puts vulnerable children at risk.”
“We are concerned that this data could be used by immigration enforcement to target individual children and families.
“If this information is collected, members of the public, journalists, government departments, and other organisations will also be able to access schools’ immigration numbers.
“With a huge rise in racist hate crime since the Brexit vote, we fear for the safety of schoolchildren nationwide.”
In response to the allegations, a spokesman for the DfE said: “These data items will not be passed to the Home Office. They are solely for internal Department for Education use for analysis, statistics and research.
“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."
The DfE also said: "We take the privacy and protection of children extremely seriously and accordingly there are strict criteria in place to determine access to extracts from the NPD. Requestors must comply with strict rules covering confidentiality, handling of data and security arrangements. Where applications do not meet these criteria they are rejected."
The DfE decision to collate the data was announced on 4 May 2016. The guidance can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-census-2016-to-2017-guide-for-schools-and-las
For information on how early years practitioners can join in the boycott visit: www.schoolsabc.net/get-active/