Are you concerned about children’s Datafication?

The Department for Education has started collecting highly detailed special needs, and labels for the reasons why children transfer out of mainstream schools that will stay on their record forever; Pregnancy, mental and physical health, and young offender, in the Alternative Provision Census.

But the Department has no intention to tell settings or Local Authorities how to inform parents and children about the details of this expansion of the data collection. Especially those who left the setting in 2017 before the law was changed. Even the new 2019 guidance makes no efforts to communicate this well.

Who exactly will access these new data? Why is it never deleted? The named data from the Alternative Provision Census are added to the national pupil data held at the DfE by June every year, and from there made accessible to third parties, but without telling families or their consent. We think this needs to change. These data are  sensitive, and #labelslastalifetime.

Read more on our dedicated Alternative Provision Census page and timeline.

Contact your MP as below. Get in touch with us if you want to support our work and raise awareness on this campaign #LabelsLastaLifetime.

Actions you can take:

  1. Post this link to Facebook or Twitter so your friends can help too. #labelslastalifetime
  2. Use to contact your MP, and (politely) tell them why this is important to you and your family, ask your MP if they will ask a question – why are my sensitive data being given away without my consent? Tell them what you want to change and why.
  3. Make sure your school and any affected AP children and families you know, are clear about this sensitive new collection, and that governors, parents and children are told how all data are used. Ask them to contact their union, and MPs, to get more information out to parents and children, LEAs and schools.If the Department cannot end its distribution of identifying sensitive data, we believe it should not collect the data at all.

More information:

  • Short background and questions [download, .pdf 60.9 KB] Dec 2017
  • The Statutory Instrument [link]The Education (Information About Children in Alternative Provision) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (807/2017) and its Explanatory Memorandum 
  • Letter to the Department for Education and Office of the Information Commissioner  [download .pdf] (September 21, 2017). The questions remain unanswered.
  • Background for schools by the Department for Education [link]

The next School Census collection day is January 17, 2019.

Are you concerned about the government’s collection of pupil data on your children and their friends? Particularly nationality data collected before now?

What can you do?  You can refuse, retract, and resist this nationality data collection. You can also take action to tell your fellow parents, schools and governors about the school census expansion and purposes behind the optional nationality data collection.

For multi language resources follow the ABC Schools Campaign for template letters. We worked together to stop the collection of children’s nationality and country of birth information in schools. You can tell your school and parents about the school census, and that they can now retract data submissions. Then tell your friends and family. And ask your MP for support. If you’re not sure who that is, you can find out here for MPs and here for the Lords. You can continue to send us your issues and questions as you have done in 2016.

Schools must ensure that parents and pupils are told the new data was optional, and has no effect on funding or any sanction for the school. Parents and pupils must not be asked for the new information for the DfE purposes [see 2018-19 Census Guidance p13 para].

If you already submitted data or it may have been sent by the school without asking you, you can ask for it to be removed.  You can see the Against Borders for Children Campaign for resources and templates or download our sample text below to object. New entries of ‘not yet obtained’ or ‘refused’ will overwrite data submitted in autumn, according to Lord Nash in a statement made in the House of Lords on November 24, 2016.  Just ask your school to make the changes. For full background of events see the tab “School Census Timeline” above.

School Census Dates 2018-19

October 4, 2018

January 17, 2019

May 16, 2019

We suggest using a template to opt out of the new census items and keep a copy. [Click to download: sample text and letter]

Actions you can take:

  1. Post this link to Facebook or Twitter so your friends can help too
  2. Use to contact your MP, and (politely) tell them why this is important to you and your family, ask your MP if they will ask a question, and tell them what you want to change. Use of all data from the National Pupil Database must be transparent, safe, and fair. We continue to call for an end of the collection of the items* in Statutory Instrument 808/2016 ahead of the next census collection of these data from state funded school children.
  3. Make sure your school is clear what these data are being used for and that the policy is for Home Office use, not educational purposes.

If you haven’t heard anything from your school, then they will have “ascribed” one to your child – whatever they thought it might be. Nationality data already in local systems have been sent to the National Database often without informing parents or pupils at all. Collecting country-of-Birth has been divisive and discriminating. You should ask your school if you have concerns, to know whether these were submitted in the school census without your knowledge.

You can ask for these data to be withdrawn if you already gave them to a school. You can refuse to provide them if asked.

Without total clarity about Home Office access to pupil data, and to-date no public statement by government on why, if, and how this will continue, there are too few reasons for the new census data  collection and too many risks to entrust even more sensitive data to them now.

ACT NOW: write to them and Government will have to answer questions on collecting country-of-birth on your children and their friends. The use of pupil data affects every under 35 year old in England’s state funded education system.


Background to the school and early years census expansion 2016-17

We believe children’s records must only be used for the purposes parents and pupils and schools expect. Giving personal information to schools is necessary for their education, but the Government shouldn’t use it against pupils and schools. How can we trust that the new country-of-birth and nationality data collected will not be used in ways we don’t expect when the government says one thing, and does another? [Read the latest press here].While the government has backed down on collecting country-of-birth and nationality from pre-schoolers, the policy remains unchanged for the majority of children and the new data will be in the School Census. You can download our detailed briefing here [updated March 6, 2017].

If you’re looking for more information about the collection of country of birth, and expanding the nationality and ethnicity data collections, Read all about it and associated questions to ask here.

You can also take action and follow the ABC Schools Campaign for template letters and work together to stop the collection of children’s nationality and country of birth information in schools.

We suggest some ideas on how and what to write to your MP [inspired by and with thanks to Refugee Action]. Ask them to share your concerns and ask questions on your behalf.

We can also provide you with campaign materials on request.

Schools will face no sanction if these data are incomplete. This was asked and confirmed on the 31st October 2016, in the House of Lords debate about the expansion of the school census collection to include country of birth and nationality from children in schools and early years, age 2-19. This collection adds more sensitive data to the named records of 20 million+ people at the Department for Education.

Many forms we have seen and been sent, fail fair processing requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, by not telling parents and pupils where the data will be sent, what it will be used for, or by whom. You can send us yours or submit it to the Schools Against Borders for Children Campaign. These can be used without revealing the school name, to demonstrate that this collection has failed across the country.

We have written to the Secretary of State for Education and Department to call for the end of the use of pupil records in these ways, interfering with privacy and family life. Since July 2015 the Home Office requested almost 2,500 individuals’ details from the Department for Education. They are given out home address and school address. The National Union of Teachers has called for this use of pupil data to end to make it clear that “schools are not part of policing immigration.”  The Against Borders for Children Campaign has received parents and pupils’ case studies from the School Census for a month with now several hundred examples of forms that fail. You may have written in response to the ABC umbrella call to supporters’ action already.  We suggest you write to your MP and tell them you want this census expansion stopped.

Student data privacy is under threat in 2018-19

The Higher Education and Research Act watered down Applicants’ personal data privacy in 2017. And the Technical and Further Education Act for Apprentices, and FE Students is worse. Both expanded the purposes to which Applicants or Apprentices and FE Students may be put. The HER Bill (Part 3 Research sections 73 and 74 powers to obtain and use application-to-acceptance information) brought UCAS held data under the control of the Secretary of State for Education for the first time, in perpetuity. Further amendments have been proposed in the Lords to clause 9 (a transparency duty) which raise privacy issues for students.

Legislation updates made by Statutory Instrument brought these into effect and expanded who can use the data in 2018.

We were given assurances by senior academic researchers leading the policy, that this would only be for academic purposes. Now we are told it is for the purposes of fraud detection. We shall watch for further scope creep.

Users of the data whether for commercial products or public interest research argue there is reluctance on the part of UCAS to release data for commercial competition reasons, on which we take no position, but on data privacy the bills are disastrous. Although UCAS had strong support for their position at Committee stage from a number of opposition MPs and the Minister made a statement which clarified and put into the Parliamentary record the government’s intention with regard to the provision of admissions data, it made no change to the face of the Bill.

Past record shows that this is not enough. When the National Pupil Database began to collect children’s names with their detailed records, MPs promised that the government was not interested in using them. Today the Home Office has access to named children’s school and home address from the NPD, and names is used by the Cabinet Office, for linkage across other datasets, as well as being used by academic researchers.

The issues in the HER Bill in the now labelled clauses 73 and 74 remain the same, and solutions summarised in our brief 3 page consultation submission on the Technical and Further Education Bill fit for both bills.

DfE currently holds only a subset of FE and HE data.  Millions of people will have their right to privacy of their personal data impinged on,  if these bills go ahead unchanged. Our personal data will be used by third parties without consent, or record of who used it, why, or for what public benefit.

Combined with the Digital Economy Bill’s open ended purposes, these new legislation on student data, means the Secretary of State could agree to pass these data on to every other government department, a range of public bodies, and some private organisations. Safeguards and oversight are needed. Unchecked these Bills create the conditions needed for catastrophic failure of public trust.

If the Home Secretary has put international students at the centre of her plans to cut migration this should be deeply worrying. Will the MOU between the DfE and the Home Office Removals Casework team be a model for access to all areas of education data, or even all public administrative data?

What can you do?

Tell your friends, tell staff where you study,  tell your MP, and you can write to a member of the House of Lords If you’re not sure who that is, you can find out here.

  • Talk to parents, friends and colleagues about the scheme and encourage them to write to a Lord and their MP to pass on their concerns to Lords they know.
  • Join the conversation on social media or parent forums to raise awareness about what the new census collection involves and why you oppose it. Don’t forget to use #BoycottSchoolCensus.
  • Ask your institution to tell your MP about your concerns.
  • Write to your local newspaper or student paper and set out some of the key points against the idea – the letters pages are very well read so this can make an impact.
  • Get involved with whatever skills you have, we welcome new supporters.

Web monitoring: statutory guidance became effective Sept 5th 2016

If you’re concerned about the web monitoring of all children that began in September 2016 in schools, read about it at Schools Week.


About The National Pupil Database, where school census data is sent

For more background details read the post on the National Pupil Database.

The Department must stop giving away sensitive individual level data without pupils’ knowledge to journalists and other commercial users and to their own locations.

Instead the DfE  should start managing the data in a secure setting with access appropriate to the data’s sensitivity and scale for 20 million people’s data. And they need to do so in ways which have oversight that is transparent, and with public involvement.

Ask them to demand the Department for Education changes their policy and practices, to protect our children’s digital identity in the 21st century and the Internet of Things. Ask them for safe data, for transparency, and independent oversight.

If you want to help defenddigitalme our key aim is first to make pupil data safe. Write to your MP to ask that the Department of Education:

  • Make pupil data safe
  • Stops giving out identifiable data to commercial third parties and press without consent
  • Starts telling pupils and parents what it does with their identifiable data
  • Is transparent about policy and practice
  • or simply – why is my data in a database of 20 million people I know nothing about?

Ask your MP to “defend digital me.” Make pupil data safe.  It’s personal. It’s your rights.