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16 Aug 2017

Let teachers teach, not act as border guards

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28 Nov 2016
We expect our teachers do a good job in educating children and young people. We expect our NHS workers to look after us. We even expect landlords to provide decent accommodation. But this government also expects them to act as border guards.

Recently the House of Lords has expressed its opposition to the collection of immigration status data in schools. This should be applauded on grounds of basic human decency alone.

Government ministers tend to present the collection of immigration data as simply a practical measure, which facilitates budgeting, planning for additional help for English language teaching, and so on. But this apparently commendable approach is not what is done in practice.

We know now that the Home Office requested information from the national pupil database on nearly 2,500 children over 15 months. The Home Office is not responsible for the schools’ budget and it does not provide resources for English language education. The requests made by the Home Office were explicitly for the purpose of immigration enforcement.

The system of data collection on place of birth and nationality is now compulsory following the issuance of guidance from the Department of Education (DfE). Reassurances from DfE officials that the data will not be handed over the Home Office ring hollow.

The Home Secretary which gave us ‘Go Home’ immigration vans during an election campaign is now the Prime Minister. These were so offensive they were even criticised at the time by Nigel Farage. But the world is evolving.  Previously, US political debate focused on whether or not to offer an amnesty to undocumented immigrants. Now, we have the wall.

Similarly, the British government wanted to name and shame firms who employed foreign workers, until there was international uproar. We have a health policy aiming to cut overseas workers from the chronically under-staffed NHS. Crucially, we have a Prime Minister who speaks much more about reducing immigration than she does about increasing prosperity. The government is motivated by an irrational and damaging determination to campaign against migrants.

The mechanisms for ‘data-sharing’ between the DfE and the Home Office already exist. In addition, the government is pushing through a plethora of draconian legislation which would allow a series of public agencies to access data held by all other bodies, merely on suspicion of any minor crime.  There is no offer to exempt the National Pupil Database from these laws, and there can be no guarantees on the protection of
the data without an exemption.

Many campaigners, the teaching unions and most parents are unhappy with this policy. The recent
U-turn on enforcing these measures on nursery school children has far from quelled outrage. This government may struggle to implement it and a Labour government would scrap this reactionary policy, if it has not fallen apart before then.


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