UK children's census focuses on foreigners for first time

UK children's census focuses on foreigners for first time
The UK’s National Pupil Database included information on children's nationality, country of birth and language skills for the first time and activists are worried the data may be misused.
2 min read
08 October, 2016
A classroom of school children in Tower Hamlets, London [Corbis News]
A national census of children in Britain has included the details of a child’s ethnicity for the first time, as refugee charities express concerns the data may be used against immigrant families.

The UK’s National Pupil Database has existed since 2013, but this is the first year in which a child’s place of birth, ethnicity and language skills was recorded in the annual census on Thursday.

A group of 20 UK charities wrote a joint letter to Justine Greening, the UK’s Education secretary, in response, voicing their concerns the data may be misused.

Without assurances to the contrary, our grave concern is that the new data collected will be shared with the Home Office and therefore potentially used for immigration enforcement purposes,” the letter said.

“We have already seen data sharing between the Home Office and other departments increase since the government announced its commitment to creating a ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented migrants.

“Such measures deter vulnerable children and families from accessing essential services, exercising their human rights, and participating on an equal basis in our communities.

A freedom of information request by Defend Digital Me found that the National Pupil Database was accessed 21 times by the police and 18 times by the Home Office.

Activists are also worried that the data may also now be accessible to the media, who may use the information for future anti-immigration stories.

The changes to the census were brought about by the previous education secretary, Nicky Morgan, as part of a crackdown on ‘education tourism’. The Daily Telegraph reported that Morgan wanted to investigate how much of a ‘pull factor’ the British state education system was for immigrant families.

A spokesperson for the department of education failed to respond to an invitation to comment. The government said in June that the proposed changes to the census were to help face a “dearth of information” about the education sector’s suitability for foreign nationals.