For schools, parents and pupils: opt out of new nationality and expanded data collection from children in England

Parents can choose not to provide the newly added requested information in the 2016/17 expanded school census collection:

  • Country of Birth
  • Nationality

and can also continue to choose not to provide what has been collected before September 2016, for some children:

  • First Language
  • Ethnicity

These data are optional, and not required: refused, not known and not yet obtained are valid returns for schools to use in these fields.


Click here to download a sample template letter [.pdf]


For Parents and Pupils: opt out of new nationality data collection from children in England

If you or your child want to opt out of providing the government your country of birth and nationality data in the school census, it is not too late to do so whether you are being asked for the first time or asked again. Your wishes will overwrite what has already been sent to the Department for Education in autumn term 2016. Further details are below.

You can RETRACT. And you can REFUSE.

All you need do is tell your school administrator that you don’t want these data recorded for your child[ren] and we recommend that you do this in writing, by filling this form below and handing it in to your school reception for their attention. Older children can decide this for themselves however we strongly recommend this is a parent-child decision, and cannot be decided by schools as all personal data from children is classed as ‘sensitive’ data and requires special attention as such. The purposes of the data use are open ended and pupils give it up for life.

Parents should be involved in the consent decisions of their competent children unless the child specifically objects, or there are special reasons against it. Local authorities should establish a default position of involving parents in decisions about sharing their children’s sensitive data unless a competent child refuses such involvement.Nuffield [ARCH report: download Protecting the Virtual Child, Dowty, T. and Douwe, K. 2009]

To write a letter you may want to adapt this suggested text or download a simple form (link below) instructing your school to opt your child[ren] out of the nationality and country of birth data collection in the school census.

Simply click on the link below to download and print off a copy, edit and fill in your details and the details of your children (i.e. children below the age of consent – older children can choose to opt out for themselves and schools should not be asking pupils to provide data in school without parental involvement) and/or anyone for whom you hold lasting power of attorney, sign and date it, and send it to your school.


Sample suggested text to copy and edit

As the [parent/legal guardian/carer] of _________________in _________________ class, I am writing to inform you that I do not want their
country of birth, nationality, first language and/or ethnicity related data to be entered in the school census. I would like to retract data already provided during the admissions process / during the autumn 2016 census   and / or I decline that these data are returned in any school census.
.
Retract data previously submitted

If this data has already been entered or submitted, please remove it and replace it with refused. Our right to request this data removal was recently confirmed in the school census guidance v1.5 published on January 10, 2017 [p61 5.3] and in Early Years guidance v1.4.

Record my objection and refusal of data

Please record nationality, country of birth, first language and ethnicity data as “refused”. The personal data is optional, and the school will not face any sanction for not supplying this data to the Department for Education, as confirmed on October 12, 2016 by a government spokesman.

Schools meet their statutory obligation to return the school census data by completing fields with valid entries, these include refused and not yet obtained codes as stated in the guidance.

ALL Pupils including EAL pupils

I object to all first language data processing and ask that you find an alternative solution if required for EAL purposes.

The national subject association for EAL, NALDIC says, they “would like to urge the Department for Education to reconsider its position urgently” “…nationality should not be conflated with EAL proficiency. They are separate issues.”

For further information

For your further information, please refer to the latest school census guidance v1.5 from the Department for Education published Jan 10, 2017 pages 61-67 or Early Years v1.4.
 Please reply to this letter to confirm that my request has been processed accordingly. Thank you.

Please reply to this letter to confirm that my request has been processed accordingly.

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

[your name]


Schools

It is important that parents are made fully aware of the purposes of these optional data, to ensure fair and legal collection by schools. A school’s statutory obligation to return data is met by returning the census data required fields containing valid data entries. Valid data entries include codes to show refused, not yet obtained, or unknown. Providing the data itself are optional. The first language field is the only one of the 4 that is used for funding purposes where the data entered is other than English, for EAL pupils.

While the latest school census guidance from the Department for Education v1.5 published Jan 10, 2017, says older pupils may be asked, we strongly recommend that parents / guardians, are asked and older pupils informed, whether these personal data are to be submitted to the Department for Education. Older pupils should be involved in the decision making about their own data. However, the information are stored forever, together with their name, date of birth, home address, gender, attainment, special needs and all the other data submitted through COLLECT.  It is unwise and unfair to assume children can fully understand the implications of the submission of any of their personal, confidential and identifiable data, and that once submitted, they give it up for life for what are in effect, open ended purposes. The third party users of identifiable national pupil data today include commercial use and use by journalists. There is no guarantee on how use may change in future.

Since the purposes of the expanded census collection and the new use of school census data by the Home Office since 2015 have become clear after campaign pressure and press scrutiny, the National Union of Teachers has called for this use of pupil data to end, emphasising that “schools are not part of policing immigration”.

The national subject association  for EAL, NALDIC says, they “would like to urge the Department for Education to reconsider its position urgently” “…nationality should not be conflated with EAL proficiency.  They are separate issues.”

See below for “what’s this all about?”.

With reference to the latest school census guidance from the Department for Education v1.5 published Jan 10, 2017., schools, parents and pupils should be aware of the changes in the 2016-17 school census data collection from children in England.

The data is optional, NOT required. (see p63) And parents may retract data already submitted.

Note: “As these must be as declared by parents / guardians, and there is absolutely no requirement for schools to request, or see, any documentary evidence of a child’s nationality. Schools must not request to see for any child, for example, a passport or birth certificate to verify the information declared by the parent / guardian or pupil for the purposes of the census.”

Codes to use where no country of birth data are provided by parents/pupils for this new census collection: [p.66]

The school must not ascribe a country of birth to the pupil but may use the following codes where appropriate:
‘refused’ – where the parent or guardian has refused to provide the information requested
‘not yet obtained’ – where the data has not been obtained by census day
‘not known’ – this code must only be used where a guardian or adoptive parent has taken care of the child and this information is unknown.

Codes to use where no nationality data are provided by parents/pupils for this new census collection: [p.67]

The school must not ascribe nationality to the pupil but may use the following codes where appropriate:
‘refused’ – where the parent or guardian has refused to provide the information requested
‘not yet obtained’ – where the data has not been obtained by census day
‘not known’ – this code must only be used where a guardian or adoptive parent has taken care of the child and this information is unknown.

Codes to use where no language data are provided by parents/pupils for this new census collection: [p.62]

The school must not ascribe a specific language to the pupil. Where the parent / guardian or pupil have refused to provide a first language, then code ‘REF’ (refused) must be used.

The codes ENB (Not known but believed to be English) and OTB (Not known but believed to be other than English) are only appropriate to use where all of the following conditions apply:

  • pupil’s first language is not known with absolute certainty
  • parents have not responded to enquiries
  • school is able to judge with a high degree of confidence whether the pupil’s language is English or not

Codes to use where no ethnicity data are provided by parents/pupils for this new census collection: [p.62]

Ethnicity has been expanded to include nursery education so now applies to all schools and all pupils.

The school must not ascribe ethnicity to the pupil. Where the ethnicity has not yet been collected this is recorded as ‘NOBT’ (information not yet obtained). If a pupil or parent has refused to provide ethnicity, ‘REFU’ (refused) is recorded and returned. The ethnicity code set can be found on six pages of the guidance [pages 126-135]

Download a sample template letter [.pdf]


What’s this all about?

Letters leaked to the BBC reveal the purposes for which the expansion of the school census of country-of-birth and nationality and language detail are not simply what has been stated, but rather the collection was arranged as a compromise, and part of a package of measures at the request of the Home Office and Cabinet Office.

It was agreed after the Immigration Taskforce discussions in July 2015, that the “Department will gather pupil-level data on children’s country of birth, nationality and English proficiency through the school census from 2017.” The agreement was preceded by statements that the government was elected with a clear mandate “to bring down net migration”.

Since July 2015, over 2,500 requests have been made by the Home Office of the NPD at the DfE, on a monthly basis, in which the Home Office presents lists of names to the DfE, which then returns school and home address data about individuals, their date of birth and gender. As of Sept 2016, 520 of 2,462 requests had returned matched data.

The Memorandum of Understanding first made public on December 15th 2016, and related information via FOI, revealed in Schools Week  show the intent was to give pupil nationality data to the Home Office. This changed on Oct 7, 2016 (the day after the first collection of the new data) after campaign pressure from over 20 rights organisations and public scrutiny. Its purpose was in part to create a hostile environment [p14] and immigration enforcement. The previous agreement “did state that DfE would provide nationality information to the Home Office”, but that this was changed “following discussions” between the two departments.

We still have deep concerns that the country-of-birth and nationality data are not being used for educational reasons at all, but may be accessed and used by DfE algorithms for this bulk data analysis for immigration control purposes.  While the DfE says these data will “not be passed to the Home Office” they will not confirm that the data will not be used for these purposes, or used in bulk within the Department for Education, to provide the matched data to the Home Office as a result.

The House of Lords agreed a regret motion on the expansion of the collection of pupil data: that this House regrets that information about pupils’ nationality and country of birth collected under the Education (Pupil Information) (England) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2016 (Statutory Instrument 2016/808) could be used to help determine a child’s immigration status.

We believe that all the data should be under the protection of safe setting management and parents asked for consent for commercial and other third party data sharing. We believe the entire census collection process needs review.