Education department set to cancel pupil nationality-sharing deal with Home Office

29th Jun 2018
Education department set to cancel pupil nationality-sharing deal with Home Office

Campaign image (Photo: Against Borders for Children)

Nadine Osman

Parents, teachers and civil right groups are celebrating the news that the Government is to back down on a controversial requirement that schools in England must collect data on their pupils’ nationality and country of birth as part of the school census.

The campaign group Against Borders for Children (ABC), which has fought against the policy since its introduction in September 2016, welcomed the apparent Government u-turn on April 9 as a “comprehensive victory”.

A spokesman for ABC told The Muslim News that it is a “massive victory” against “Tory hostile agenda” but warned, “there is still some unfinished business, though: the data which has already been collected must be deleted, and the DfE [Department for Education] must stop sharing children’s addresses with Home Office enforcement teams.”

Advocacy and Policy Officer at Liberty, Gracie Bradley, said the requirement to collect pupils’ nationality and country of birth data was a “poisonous attempt to build foreign children lists.”

More than 500 people donated a total of more than £12,000 to fund a court action to overturn the policy.

The Government maintained the information was required to help schools cater for pupils for whom English was not their first language, and insisted it would not be passed onto the Home Office for immigration inquiries.

However, in December 2016, it was revealed that education officials had an agreement to share the personal details of up to 1,500 school children a month with the Home Office to “create a hostile environment” in schools for illegal migrants.

The agreement between the DfE and the Home Office, read: “Where it is suspected that an [immigration offence] has been, or is being committed, the DfE will [share] their data with the HO [Home Office] to assist in the process of identifying potential new contact details (including addresses) for the individual(s) and their family members.”

It added that the “strategic aims” of the data sharing include re-establishing contact with families the Home Office has lost contact with, to reduce the population of illegal migrants, and to “create a hostile environment for those who seek to benefit from the abuse of immigration control”.

Bradley said she hoped the Government climb down would inspire further resistance to the Government’s broader hostile environment policies, adding: “It doesn’t change the fact that the DfE is still sharing the addresses of hundreds of children and families with the Home Office every month.

“Until undocumented people are able to access vital frontline services without fear of being shopped to the Home Office, there will still be children in the UK robbed of their right to an education and worse.”

The DfE was unable to comment because of ongoing legal action. Sources told Schools Week however that schools would not be required to submit pupil nationality or country of birth data in the next census which is due on May 17.

Civil right groups welcomed the news but warned a similar data-sharing deal between the NHS and Home Office is still ongoing. Joy Patel, a spokesperson for Docs Not Cops, said, “The Government bluntly rejected the Health Select Committee’s urgent request that data-sharing between NHS Digital and the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes be put to an end. Data sharing and upfront charges in the NHS work together to deter patients, often those who are the most vulnerable in society, from seeking crucial treatment. This includes children who are not exempt from these charges.”

 

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