AUTHOR: agency reporter
The National Education Union has released a statement asking for the Department of Health to halt the gathering of pupils’ data for immigration enforcement purposes, and calling on the House of Commons Education Committee to investigate the use of this data.
The statement follows a review of data-sharing by NHS Digital by the Health Select Committee last month. The Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, wrote a letter to NHS Digital asking for a halt to the scheme prior to further review.
In its statement, the National Education Union “fully endorses the views expressed by the Health Committee and wishes to see the House of Commons Education Committee make a similar plea to the Department for Education.”
It goes on: “The issue of collection of nationality and country of birth data was first brought to our attention in or around July 2016. A number of Union activists were taken by surprise when schools in their area started collecting data relating to the nationality and country of birth of pupils. There had been no prior consultation by the DfE with schools and parents. Some members were concerned that this appeared to be happening so soon after the outcome of the EU Referendum and at a time when there were increased reports of anti-EU and racist behaviour inside and outside schools. They felt it would serve only to increase the anxiety of both EU and non-EU citizens.”
“Since then it has been confirmed that in some cases information provided to the DfE as part of the census data has been passed to the Home Office and the police under a memorandum of understanding which has the aim of pursuing suspected immigration offenders. It is the DfE’s view that this is justified.”
“However, the National Education Union is deeply concerned that this will discourage undocumented parents and carers from accessing education for their children. We believe it will damage the relationship between staff and the pupils and their parents, who may understandably view the school as policing immigration. The National Education Union believes it is important for that relationship of trust that parents and pupils know that information given by them to the school will only be shared with organisations for educational and not immigration purposes.”
Campaign group SchoolsABC (Against Borders for Children) were leading a legal challenge against data-sharing in schools, but have been denied permission for judicial review by a High Court judge. According to SchoolsABC’s website, the judge ruled that the group could challenge the policy through another route, that is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). SchoolsABC will appeal, but “the legal route is paused” according to the group.
A spokesperson for SchoolsABC said, “This is a significant setback for efforts to legally challenge this aspect of the Home Office’s unfair and unjustified ‘hostile environment’ agenda, first established when Theresa May was Home Secretary. We believe there is a strong public interest case and that this point of law should be challenged in court, which why we will take this to the Court of Appeal. Other cases will continue, though, such as the Migrants’ Rights Network challenge to the sharing of patient data between NHS Digital and the Home Office. We will continue to back all efforts like this to overturn cruel and divisive policies of this sort.””We are also not done with the Department for Education, despite this disappointing news. We will prepare a challenge through the Information Commissioner’s Office. We will continue to work towards our goal to ensure every school puts the education and safety of all children ahead of this perverse ideology.”
“Every child has has the right to education, free from discrimination and fear.”
* Migrants’ Rights Network https://migrantsrights.org.uk/
* SchoolsABC https://www.schoolsabc.net/