News / National Pupil Database pupil privacy

Why shouldn’t we collect every child’s country of birth and nationality?

This is no time to be mincing our words in the currently hostile environment which is encroaching into our classrooms. The guidance on collecting nationality and country-of-birth data and its implementation have resulted in confusion in schools and upset parents and children. It harms trust in data collection and use. This is a toxic policy and needs scrapped.

As the Against Borders for Children co-founder said here, “If you’re already a migrant child, and you’re already concerned about what is happening with Britain leaving the EU, and then half the class that isn’t white is told, ‘You need to bring your passport in,’ that’s a really concerning development. It’s dividing children at such a young age and sending them a message that migrant children are somehow different.”

Protecting parental and children’s trust is now paramount. The policy intent needs closely examined. And safeguards need written into legislation that children’s data are only to be used for the purposes parents expect when they entrust that data to schools.

If you need more, here are Ten Reasons Why we Shouldn’t Collect Every Child’s Country of Birth in Schools.

  1. Discrimination is real. Not ‘white-British’ pupils told to send in birthplace data, a county council told all Heads to ‘ascribe’ ethnicity and breach guidance by overruling  the consent of parents who withheld it, teens challenged in front of classroom peers
  2. Secret lists used by governments, creates mistrust and never ends well. It is at worst nasty and at best naive. This is set against the backdrop of other announcements and a hostile environment for foreign-born workers, academics banned from work and NHS staff [14:06].
  3. The policy is vague with no clear and necessary purpose, no funding and no published business case. The Department for Education has refused to publish these details.
  4. The new law was rushed through in the summer holidays without scrutiny or safeguards on how these data can be handed out to third parties now, or in future
  5. Uses by government without informing parents and pupils breaches schools relationships with their pupils and damages trust.
  6. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said in Parliament, that the handling and policies on data release from the DfE National Pupil Database would not change.  “There are currently no plans for the Department to change the existing protocols and processes for the handling and disclosure of confidential information.”
  7. All purposes and use need transparent public oversight. All parents and schools need adequately informed that all their confidential personal data from the school census will be given to a range of third parties including commercial business. Most forms we have seen fail fair processing. Past use by the Home Office of information from the National Pupil Database breaches schools’ parental and children’s trust. This new data purpose needs close scrutiny and transparency for the new or existing data being used in secret immigration enforcement.
  8. It’s not needed for English as an Additional Language funding provision. That data is already assessed by teachers, submitted in the school census, and is being expanded.
  9. It’s not a schools job to be border guards. There is a government organisation, The Migration Statistics Unit Office at the Office for National Statistics, whose role is to measure these data. This data is however is not statistics but detailed records on a named basis, from all 8+ million children across the country.There is lots of information available from them already not only from the 10 year census, but from 2015 the latest data is available by region and can go down to Local Authority level. With queries they do say that due to the very small numbers of contacts making up the data it is not published.
  10. We need respectful, sensitive ways to capture complex linguistic, cultural and geographical understanding of our English-as-an-Additional Language pupils in school. Unfortunately this toxic and divisive policy that creates a hostile environment is not the way to do that.