Home Office Using School Records to Target 1500 Children Each Month

A picture of a sign at the Home Office

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that the DfE have an agreement to share the personal details of up to 1500 schoolchildren a month with the Home Office to “create a hostile environment” in schools for migrants. As The Guardian reports, the agreement is detailed in a memorandum of understanding between the Department for Education (DfE) and the Home Office, in place since June 2015. The DfE also confirmed to SchoolsWeek that it had agreed to share children’s nationality data with the Home Office until a u-turn was made in October.

Campaign coordinator, Gracie Mae Bradley said: ‘This newly released MoU makes clear in chilling detail that the DfE still plans to collaborate with the Home Office to share the personal details on over 1000 children every single month, including name, address, and school details. Using school records to track down and deport migrant children and families is totally indefensible. Schools should be a place where all children feel safe.”

If your school asks for your child’s nationality and country of birth, please use your legal right to decline answering those questions. Or, if they have already got those details, you can tell the school to delete this information using our template letters.

If your school hasn’t asked you then they have either presumed your child’s nationality or are yet to ask. Don’t wait, use our template letters to #BoycottSchoolCensus today.

Join our conference on Saturday 14th of January to learn more about our campaign and find out how you can get involved.

Everyday Borders: An Exhibition – 6th – 10th December 2016

Crossing borders at a young age is never easy. Borders manifest themselves not only as physical entities, but in cultural, economic and psychological terms as well. The young women of Sin Fronteras – a youth project that is part of the Latin American Womens Rights Service – present an exhibition of photographs, films and zines that reflect upon their identities, experiences and perspectives as migrants in the UK.
This exhibition will run from December 6th – 10th 2016 at the Marnier Gallery in London, opening with a private view on the 6th December between 6 and 8.30pm. There will be guided tours of the exhibition – led by the young artist – running Saturday 10th December between 11am – 2pm (one beginning every hour).

Address:
Menier Gallery
Southwark Street
London
SE1 1RU

Opening Hours
Private View (6th December): 6pm – 8.30pm
7th – 10th December: 11am – 6pm

Cause for celebration, but the fight goes on! [Posted originally on the Migrants’ Rights Network]

This post is reblogged from Migrants’ Rights Network with permission.

Gracie Bradley, Project Manager at MRN, talks about the hat that she wears when she isn’t running the Route To Your Rights project – coordinator of the Against Borders for Children campaign.

The collection of nationality and country of birth data in schools and nurseries was a change in policy announced without much fanfare last spring. The government intended to link this new data to other information such as address and ethnicity that is held in the National Pupil Database (NPD). The NPD contains the records of around 20 million people. The data is never deleted, and identifiable information on individual pupils is accessible to the Home Office, the police, and third parties such as researchers and the press.

Bleak

In 2013, ministers and civil servants discussed excluding children with irregular migration status from schools. Next, in 2015, the then-education secretary Nicky Morgan announced a review of ‘education tourism’. This policy on ‘foreign children lists’ was introduced in May. As recently as October, just after Amber Rudd was forced into a climbdown on her proposals for foreign worker lists, a parliamentary question revealed that the Home Office has requested the data of thousands of children from the DfE in the last 15 months alone, including for immigration enforcement purposes.

Whatever justification the DfE might give for the new data collection, the wider context of the “hostile environment” cannot be ignored. The last few years have seen successive pieces of legislation decimate migrants’ access to justice while turning employers, banks, the DVLA, landlords, and health workers into border guards. This was no time to sit back and watch teachers be added to that list. Schools should be a safe place for all children, not potential collaborators with immigration enforcement.

Strength in numbers

When the campaign started in September, we took the fight straight to government, and wrote a letter to Justine Greening calling on her to scrap the data collection. A wide range of human rights groups signed in solidarity with us; from Privacy International and the Open Rights Group, to Liberty and the Refugee Council. That was enough to get us press coverage in almost all of the national papers. At the same time, we launched a social media campaign to get the word out to as many schools and parents as possible: you do not have to answer the new questions on nationality and country of birth, and refusing to do so protects migrant children and sends a strong signal to government about the kind of society we want to live in.

And then the stories from schools and parents began to pour in: children being asked for passports, contrary to official guidance; schools targeting only foreign pupils for the new information in a clearly discriminatory way; schools wrongly telling parents that the new questions were mandatory; migrant children singled out and embarrassed in front of their classmates.

#BoycottSchoolCensus trended on Twitter, and well-placed FOI requests submitted by our brilliant sister campaign defenddigitalme kept the issue high on the political agenda. The House of Lords passed a motion regretting the new data collection on 31 October, with one peer remarking that it has “all the hallmarks of racism”. And long overdue scrutiny in the House of Commons is expected in the coming weeks, thanks to a motion tabled by Jeremy Corbyn.

Concessions

The first signs that the policy was crumbling came just before the debate in the House of Lords, when Lord Nash reportedly wrote to peers to say that the new data will not be held in the NPD due to its sensitivity. Then, the day after we met with civil servants at the Department for Education last week, the government announced another U-turn: it will not attempt to collect nationality or country of birth data on toddlers through the Early Years Census this January. Credit is due to the civil servants at the DfE who took the time to listen to the stories of the migrant families at the heart of all this: of the parents scared to send their children to school; and the migrant children told to “go home” by their classmates.

The fight continues

Now that the government is on the back foot it’s crucial that we keep the pressure up. We might have spared the pre-schoolers, but the nationality and country of birth questions are set to remain in the next School Census, due on 19 January. But if the data is unusable, the DfE won’t be able to justify its continued collection.

That’s why we’re encouraging all parents to answer ‘refused’ to the new nationality and country of birth questions. There’s no sanction for doing so, and absent a change of heart from government, or more concerted parliamentary opposition, this may be the only way to get this risky and divisive policy scrapped for good.

We have a long way yet to go, but the successes of the campaign so far show us just how much we can achieve when we work in solidarity against forces that initially seem much bigger and more powerful than we are: a note of quiet encouragement for these troubled times.

Report of the first Kids Against Raids and Borders Meeting

​On Sunday 20th November, about 20 children and adults came together for the first ever Kids Against Raids and Borders meeting. There were wide ranging discussions about the ways that racist violence is carried out through government agencies and individual actions.

Young people talked about their experiences of racism and everyone talked about developing strategies to avoid or stop harm creates by racists.

One 14 year old suggested using Snapchat to share resources about what Immigration Enforcement vans look like and what to do when you see an immigration raid or if a family member is questioned by an immigration officer (don’t talk as you can refuse to answer their questions). The group discussed how to raise awareness among their peers about the school census and what immigration controls actually involve, and ideas included making comics, leaflets and zines.

Young people also broke out into their own space to discuss ideas without adults dominating their conversation. Using memes like the Mannequin Challenge was an idea that KARB will look into producing.

Kojo from Against Borders for Children did a presentation and Q & A on the Government’s Foreign Children Database and the ongoing boycott of nationality questions on the school census. The campaign recently won a concession which now means pre-school children are now exempt from the nationality questions but 5 – 19 year olds will still be targeted in January.

We also watched a video of a Shutdown Yarls Wood demonstration by Sin Fronteras and they talked about how to make links with those in detention.

The next meeting will be set in the New Year. All are welcome to attend so contact us for more information and to keep updated.

Open Letter: #BoycottSchoolCensus continues – time for politicians to act!

Schools ABC logo

When we urged a boycott of nationality and country of birth data collection in schools, we feared the School Census would be used for third party purposes, including immigration enforcement. We didn’t know then that it already was.

It turned out that children’s names, home addresses and school details are handed out regularly to the Home Office, which has requested information on almost 2,500 individuals in the last 15 months.

How can anyone trust the Department for Education’s (DfE) assurances that that these new ‘foreign children lists’ will be used to support children’s education, and will not be given to the Home Office, when the National Pupil Database is already being used to target children?

Growing opposition to the policy now includes politicians across party lines in the House of Commons, following a successful motion of regret in the House of Lords. The National Union of Teachers has also felt compelled to remind the government that “schools are not part of policing immigration”.

In September we wrote to Justine Greening and asked her to scrap this risky and divisive policy. But the DfE plans to press ahead with it in January, when nationality and country of birth data will be collected from every child in state-funded education in England.

All schools and parents can respond ‘not yet obtained’ or ‘refused’ to these questions without fear of sanction.

We urge all politicians to speak up for the rights of migrant children and families, and to say no to foreign children lists.

Signed

Against Borders for Children

BARAC UK

defenddigitalme

Institute of Race Relations

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Latin American Women’s Rights Service

Liberty

Migrants’ Rights Network

National Union of Students – Black Students’ Campaign

Open Rights Group

Privacy International

Refugee Council

Right to Remain

Southall Black Sisters

New Group Launch: Kids Against Raids and Borders.

Sunday 20th November Kids Against Raids And Borders will gather 3.30 to 6.30pm at The Field, New Cross, London.

An interview with Swadhin from KARB.

  • What is KARB?

KARB is kids against raids and borders –  a new kid’s campaign.

  • Why did you want to set up this group?

Because I think there is space for one and there is a need for one. We need one. There is no real kid’s campaign in any of the movements now. There is nothing to get kids genuinely interested. Raids and borders are more of a metaphor for the state’s oppression itself in a way. Another reason is that raids and borders affect children most out of what the government does to oppress people.

  • Why raids and borders?

By raids I mean immigration raids – raids are when someone knocks on your door or stops you somewhere and asks you questions or tries to force you into a van or puts you in handcuffs or arrests you in some other way with no charge and no crime committed. This is purely about the government interest in getting rid of migrants.

Borders is because the government are making everything a border, schools, hospitals, policing (that has always been a border). All public service now have become a way to subject the many to more oppression.

  • Why do you think young people should get involved in groups like KARB?

Because not only are young people affected as much as adults but also our movement is pointless without a succession and children will most likely be the succession to campaign.

But also kids should participate in campaigns because we don’t get together enough  and it is also just a way of talking to each other about what’s on our minds and what school’s like and human interaction really.

The first meeting of KARB will be at The Field, 385 Queens Road, New Cross on Sunday 20th November from 3.30pm to 6.30pm. There will be activities for younger children and space and a meeting space for older children and teenagers to make materials for the campaign and plan future activities.

Migrant youth are asking for your solidarity on Monday

sinfronteras

Last weekend, ABC met with a group of young women and girls from Sin Fronteras – a youth project that is part of the Latin American Womens Rights Service – to talk to them about the campaign, and the upcoming debate in the House of Lords.  The talk came during a workshop in which the group were creating a zine on equal rights in education, including information to raise awareness of the new DfE policy.

Members of the group spoke about their experiences with the new country of birth and nationality data collection, with some being shocked when they discovered they actually had the right to refuse this information.

“I got a letter from school asking for my nationality and country of birth – it didn’t say that we can refuse, we thought it was obligatory”.

All expressed their dismay at the data collection and its link to immigration, particularly given that the Home Office and the police have been granted access to the National Pupil Database (NPD) on numerous occasions over the past 4 years.  They voiced anxiety at what the policy could mean for those whose families are undocumented, and also at how this data collection might link to Brexit, for those with non-British passports.  Even with the assurance that their families would face no sanctions if they refused to provide this data, group members worried that such refusal could in itself mark them out from their British counterparts:

“If we say ‘refused’ on the form, could they not use that to know we are undocumented?”.

This is why we called on British parents and children to also support the boycott –  no group should be singled out by their rejection of this policy, nor should the fight against it fall only on the shoulders of those it most directly affects.

It is difficult to offer sufficient reassurances with such a discriminatory policy causing real fear and anxiety for young people and their families.  The first School census day (6th October) to include this data happened in the same week the Home Secretary announced the policy for companies to report the number of foreign national employees.  While the government have since declared that these lists will not be made public, they will still be constructed, and secretly held by the government for future planning.  

It was also revealed today that in the last 14 months, the Home Office has asked the Department for Education for access to the school records of almost 2500 children, including for immigration enforcement purposes. Such a hostile environment makes it easily apparent that we must do all we can to have this policy repealed.  The group expressed determination to fight for the rejection of this policy, and persuade others around them to do the same.

“Now we are conscious that we, as migrant youth, can refuse to give this information and oppose this legislation that will affect the opportunity we have to educate ourselves freely. As young Latin Americans living in London, we believe that we have the same right to education and that it shouldn’t be a privilege of citizenship or migrant status.”

The group urged everyone to contact members of the House of Lords ahead of the debate on 31 October, writing to a Lord they already know; the Lord Watson, Labour’s Education Spokesperson in the House, or even on Twitter at @LabourLordsUK & @LibDemLords using #EducationNotDeportation and #BoycottSchoolCensus.  

The debate will be a chance for Peers to vote to show that they want the policy to be scrapped. Having them understand the depth of worry over the policy can help to persuade them to make this happen.  So many have expressed their outrage and disbelief at this policy, and by expressing yours, you still have time to make a tangible difference.

So the Department for Education has been secretly sharing kids’ data with the Home Office, and it doesn’t plan to stop. What can we do about it?

On October 6, the evening the autumn School Census was completed, a Freedom of Information request from campaigners at defenddigitalme finally received a response from the Department for Education (DfE). Now we were already aware that data from the National Pupil Database (NPD) had been accessed by the Home Office on 18 occasions between 2012 and 2016. We didn’t know for what purpose, however, although looking at data-sharing between the Home Office and other departments, we had our suspicions. The response received by defenddigitalme on October 6 confirmed our worst fears: that data from the NPD has been shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes. To be clear: on 18 occasions does not mean that the Home Office has used the NPD to look up the details of 18 people. It may have been looking for the details of several people – dozens, hundreds – on each occasion; we don’t know how many. And up until now, parents and the public have had no idea.

In a statement to The Guardian, the DfE tried to allay parents’ fears, saying “[T]his [new country of birth and nationality] data has not and will not be shared with the Home Office or police and there is an agreement in place to this effect.” But this doesn’t reassure us. First, we have no evidence that the agreement is actually in place. Since the DfE suggested in a meeting on September 29 that there was an agreement under discussion, requests by campaigners and journalists to see the agreement have not, to date, been fulfilled. Second, despite repeated opportunities in the press and in Parliament to be open and transparent about how data is used and shared with other departments, the DfE has up until now kept parents, schools, and the public in the dark. Third, and worse still, the DfE actually admits in its own statement to The Guardian that not only has it been sharing kids’ home addresses and school details with the Home Office, it also plans to continue to do so.

Against this backdrop, it’s vital that we resist any attempts to expand data collection through the School Census, and work to roll back extensions that have already been made in time for the next School Census date, 19 January 2017. There will be a debate and vote on the new country of birth and nationality data collection in the House of Lords on Monday 31 October This is a crucial opportunity to have the policy scrapped. However, what the DfE has said so far is:

“There is no quantifiable evidence to support the claim that many school staff and parents have concerns regarding the collection of this new data. The Department have not received any formal complaints from schools or parents regarding the changes to the school census data and, for example, discussions on parental public forums (such as mums net) suggest that the majority of people are supportive of the changes.”

This is where you come in. We know that hundreds of parents, teachers and kids are all dismayed about this new data collection; many of you have been in touch to tell us so and have expressed your concerns publicly. In the run-up to the debate, the House of Lords needs to understand that lots of people are worried, and with good reason. To that end, we’re asking you to write to, call, or email your local MPs and councillors to explain why you’re concerned about nationality and country of birth data collection in the School Census, and asking them to raise it with the Lords. You could even write to the Lords directly, if you have a connection to one. When millions of EU citizens in the UK are facing an uncertain future, and the government is discussing forcing firms to report numbers of foreign workers, now is the time for each and every one of us to speak up for the rights of migrant children and their families, wherever they come from.

ABC Day of Action: Contact your local MP and councillors!

Today, Thursday 6th October is School Census day in England. Academies and local authority schools will be electronically submitting school census data to the Department of Education. 

Against Borders for Children is calling today a Day of Action to protect immigrant children in England.

For the first time ever, the school census includes immigration data, i.e. country of birth and nationality of pupils in Primary and Secondary Education and young people in sixth forms attached to a secondary school.

Schools are asking parents to send this data in but parents have a right to refuse providing this information. However some schools are not making this right clear to parents.


Against Borders for Children has already taken action by sending a letter to Justine Greening with over 20 other organisations. Now we are asking everyone in the UK but especially in England to contact their political representatives to raise concerns about this new policy and the manner that some of this data has been collected.

Please take 5 minutes today to email and/or call your local councillor, your local MP and even your school board of governors.

If calling your MP, you can use the following text:

I am a constituent of yours and I am concerned about the new nationality and country of birth questions on the Department for Education’s School Census. 

I have heard in the press that schools have been asking parents with foreign sounding names to bring in their passports and non-white British children asked to hand in their birth certificates.

The National Pupil Database will permanently store this information and it will be accessible at an individual level for other government departments including the Home Office that recently announced it wants to publish lists of firms that hire foreign workers. I worry that a future policy will be to make public all the schools with large numbers of foreign pupils. 

I would like you to ask the Schools Minister to withdraw this policy and delete country of birth and nationality data from the National Pupil Database and also remove these questions from the Early Years and Schools Censuses.

Please also email your local MP and copy us in at hello@schoolsabc.net also send us any responses you get!

Get involved and look at our resources page.