SHAFAQNA – School children who are not white British are being asked to provide proof of their birthplace, in order to confirm whether they are asylum seekers or refugees, it has been revealed.
New rules laid out by the Department for Education this year mean schools must collect a greater degree of census details from pupils starting school.
The Government insisted the change had been introduced as part of a drive to determine how effective the education sector was for foreign nationals in the UK.
Schools are now advised to seek birthplace data from parents, but cannot force parents to provide it.
A report from Schools Week found that many schools are misinterpreting the guidance, with many demanding copies of pupils’ passports and asking parents to confirm their child is not an asylum seeker.
According to the news source, De Beauvoir primary school in Hackney, east London, is one institution that has issued a form to parents that appears to require staff to check the details provided against passports and birth certificates, as well as asking whether or not their child is a refugee or asylum seeker.
Parents at Garth Hill college in Bracknell, Berkshire, received different emails depending on their child’s reported ethnicity.
Parents of white children, who were deemed to be “white-British”, were told the school assumed they had been born in the UK and that they did not need to reply unless this was an error.
However, parents whose children had a different recorded ethnicity were told to send in proof of their birthplace as a matter of urgency.
St Richards Church of England First School in Evesham, Worcestershire, also contacted parents asking them to provide pupils’ passport numbers.
Spokespeople from each school said they were unable to comment at the time.
Concerns have been raised over the schools’ approaches since it is said to be unclear to many parents how their data will be used. It is also not always made clear to the parents that they can opt-out of providing the data.
Diane Leedham, a specialist English as an additional language (EAL) teacher, said she was worried about the “range of interpretation” schools were placing on the Government’s “contentious but clear” instructions.
She added that schools should “make it clear that parents can opt-out if they wish”.
Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools that had requested documents should “simply make a very brief apology” and explain to parents that they had misunderstood the guidance.
“There are very legitimate reasons behind the collection of this data,” he said, adding that under no circumstances would the information be passed on to the Home Office.
The Department for Education has now reconfirmed its guidance. A spokesperson said: “The guidance is clear – there is no requirement for schools to request a child’s passport or birth certificate”. He insisted the nationality and country of birth data “should be as stated by the parent or guardian”.