Non-white schoolchildren asked to provide proof they are not asylum seekers

Government guidance has been misinterpreted by a number of schools, reports claim, with several demanding passport details from ethnic minority students

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The Independent Online

School children are being 'singled out' and asked to provide proof of their birthplace purely as a result of their skin colour, it has been revealed.

New rules laid out by the Department for Education this year mean schools must collect a greater degree of census details from pupils starting school.

Some schools have been found to be misinterpreting the guidance, however, with a number demanding to see the passports of non-white British children in order to confirm they are not a refugee or asylum seeker.

The Government insisted the change had been introduced as part of a drive to determine how effective the education sector was for foreign nationals in the UK.

Schools are now advised to seek birthplace data from parents, but cannot force parents to provide it. 

Equal rights campaigners have expressed concern over the new guidelines, however, warning that it leaves schools in danger of discriminating against minority pupils.

Gracie Bradley a founding member of the Against Borders for Children campaign said: “It seems that some schools are now singling out children based purely on the colour of their skin, and going beyond the Department for Education's guidance by demanding identification documents from their parents."

"There is no legitimate use for nationality or country of birth data, and the guidance says parents can opt out, as we would advise them to do given the risks this information will be misused."

The Against Borders for Children campaign was sparked directly in response to the new requirements to collect information of pupil birth and nationality. 

Ms Bradley added: "Schools must make it clear to parents that they do not have to take part, and they must respect parents' wishes not to provide this inappropriate information.”

According to a report by SchoolsWeek, De Beauvoir primary school in Hackney, east London, is one institution that has issued a form to parents that appears to require staff to check the details provided against passports and birth certificates, as well as asking whether or not their child is a refugee or asylum seeker. 

Parents at Garth Hill college in Bracknell, Berkshire, reportedly received different emails depending on their child’s reported ethnicity.

Parents of white children, who were deemed to be “white-British”, were told the school assumed they had been born in the UK and that they did not need to reply unless this was an error.

However, parents whose children had a different recorded ethnicity were told to send in proof of their birthplace as a matter of urgency, the news source said.

A spokesperson for the school later said: "We are following the Department for Education's guidance for schools as it relates to the collection of the country of birth and nationality data of our pupils.

"We have asked parents/carers to confirm the country of birth and nationality of the children. The college has not requested copies of passports or any other documents from families."

St Richards Church of England First School in Evesham, Worcestershire, also contacted parents asking them to provide pupils’ passport numbers. 

Neither De Beavoir nor St Richards schools were able to provide a comment.

Gracie Marie Bradley, founding member of Against Borders for Children, said the measures were "singling out children based purely on the colour of their skin" and "going beyond the Department for Education's guidance by demanding identification documents from their parents".

Bradley also voiced concerns over how the data may be used, and the lack of clarity over an opt-out option.

"There is no legitimate use for nationality or country of birth data, and the guidance says parents can opt out, as we would advise them to do given the risks this information will be misused," said Bradley. "Schools must make it clear to parents that they do not have to take part, and they must respect parents' wishes not to provide this inappropriate information.”

Diane Leedham, a specialist English as an additional language (EAL) teacher, said she was also worried about the “range of interpretation” schools were placing on the Government’s “contentious but clear” instructions. 

She added that schools should “make it clear that parents can opt-out if they wish”.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools that had requested documents should “simply make a very brief apology” and explain to parents that they had misunderstood the guidance.

“There are very legitimate reasons behind the collection of this data,” he said, adding that under no circumstances would the information be passed on to the Home Office.

The Department for Education has now reconfirmed its guidance. A spokesperson said: “The guidance is clear – there is no requirement for schools to request a child’s passport or birth certificate”. He insisted the nationality and country of birth data “should be as stated by the parent or guardian”.

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