Migrant youth are asking for your solidarity on Monday


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.

VIDEO: “I have the right to go to school and feel safe”

Young people from the Latin American Women’s Rights Service project: “Sin Fronteras” and the advocacy group Jawaab UK have come together to make this powerful video to promote our campaign.

Please share this and remind parents that they have until Wednesday 5th October to opt-out or their children’s immigration data may be obtained and sent to the Department of Education where it will be permanently and irreversibly stored. Parents will not be able to ask for this information to be deleted after this date, so the opt-out is crucial to protect their child’s data.

You can use our letter template to opt-out and email/write to your school TODAY.