Parents are boycotting a “racist” new government policy that requests the nationality and country of birth information for children between ages two and 19 in England.
The request, which comes from the Department for Education (DfE) has led to some children being asked to bring their passports into school. Some schools have targeted only non-white children and pupils with foreign-sounding names for the information, according to Gracie May Bradley, one of the founders of the Against Borders for Children’s (ABC) campaign.
The group has been urging parents to refuse to provide the information, concerned that many are not aware it is optional.
Parents and campaigners are worried that the data – which will be added to the National Pupil Database (NPD) – will stigmatise migrant families and create tensions in the playground. There are also concerns the information will be shared with the Home Office and passed on to deportation authorities. One 17-year-old, whose family is from Nigeria, said it would make some people think the Government would “come for them”.
Although Bradley acknowledged the DfE had not requested passports be brought to school, teachers misinterpreting the request could create tensions in schools and society, she argued.
“If you’re already a migrant child, and you’re already concerned about what is happening with Britain leaving the EU, when actually half the class that isn’t white is told, ‘You need to bring your passport in,’ that’s a really concerning development,” Bradley told i. “It’s dividing children at such a young age and sending them a message that migrant children are somehow different.”
“That’s ultimately the message that kids get: this is how you treat one set of people, this is how you treat another,” said Bradley.
Claire Jones, the parent of two primary-aged children, told i she was “horrified” to receive the letter asking for the nationality information.
She was one of the parents to send a boycott letter to her children’s school.
“I (and my children) are campaigning against this racist and xenophobic policy, on the basis it will harm vulnerable refugee or immigrant children, and their families.
“No child is illegal, and refugee and immigrant children are welcome in my children’s school community.”
‘Personal confidentiality is being invaded’
A 17-year-old who came to the UK at the age of seven said the policy could make people worried “that their immigration status will be passed on to the Government and the Home Office will come for them”.
She argued that new schools tend to ask about immigration status anyway, something that made her feel that her “personal confidentiality is being invaded”.
The 17-year-old, who is a member of Let us Learn which campaigns for equal access to education, recalled feeling uncomfortable when asked about her immigration status at a new college.
“I recently enrolled at college and was asked about my immigration status in front of a room full of people. No one was asked individually. It definitely could have been handled better. For some people, this is very personal information which is difficult to discuss.”
The Department of Education’s policy, she feared, would change pupils’ relationship with school: “Students won’t want to ask for support from teachers. They won’t want to open themselves up to them.”
Calls for questions to be scrapped
The ABC group is worried the data will be passed on to the Home Office and deportation authorities because it is believed the NPD has been accessed by the Home Office 18 times between April 2012 and July 2016.
The move to include questions about the nationality and country of birth for two to 19-year-olds in England in the school census – collected three times each academic year – was announced earlier this year.
The data for pupils whose parents did not refuse has already been collected and is to be passed on to the NPD on Thursday.
The ABC campaign is now calling on parents to write to their MPs and local councillors, calling for the nationality and country of birth requirement to be scrapped entirely.
In a response to the i, the Department for Education said: “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.
“Our guidance to schools is absolutely clear that school census data should be requested from all pupils, in line with the national population census. These data items, however, will not be passed to the Home Office. They are solely for internal Department for Education use for analysis, statistics and research.”