Europa/Reino Unido/Octubre de 2016/Autores: Richards Adams y Martin Belam/Fuente: The Guardian
RESUMEN: Los padres han estado haciendo campañas para detener la recogida de datos en las escuelas sobre las nacionalidades de nacimiento de sus alumnos. Pedir a los padres que presenten el país de nacimiento de sus hijos esta semana como parte del censo escolar ha provocado una reacción significativa en las redes sociales, con los padres se insta a boicotear la encuesta a través de la campaña #BoycottSchoolCensus. Aquí están las respuestas a algunas de las preguntas clave sobre el censo y la campaña en contra de ella.
Parents have been campaigning to stop schools collecting data on the birth nationalities of their pupils. Here’s why …
Moves to ask parents to submit the country of birth of their children this week as part of the school census have caused a significant backlash on social media, with parents being urged to boycott the survey via the #BoycottSchoolCensus hashtag campaign. Here are the answers to some of the key questions about the census and the campaign against it.
What is the census, and what is new about it this year?
State schools in England supply details about their pupils to the Department for Education for what is known as the school census once every term. The census includes details such as age, address and academic attainments, and these are recorded in the national pupil database (NPD). National statistics from the survey are published every year. Here’s the 2016 edition.
Last year, long before the EU referendum, the DfE decided to add new components for the 2016-17 census, including pupils’ country of birth and nationality. It also started to ask schools to judge children’s proficiency in English if it is not their first language. The DfE has collected data on pupils’ ethnicity for many years.
Can schools ask to see passports or birth certificates?
No. There are reports that many schools have reacted to the new questions on birth and nationality by asking to do so, but the DfE says parents are not obliged to comply.
Schools and local authorities are allowed to ask for proof of date of birth during the admissions process, but the DfE’s code specifically states they must not ask for “long” birth certificates or “other documents which include information about the child’s parents”.
What is the data used for?
At a basic level the DfE uses the school census for funding and planning. Its intention in adding nationality and language ability was to help gauge the “targeting of support” for pupils and schools.
Academics and journalists conducting research also make extensive use of the database. Figures showing that grammar schools have a tiny number of pupils on free school meals, for example, are likely to have come via the NPD.
Who has access to the data?
Access to the NPD is restricted, and the restrictions increase with the level of detail. The highest level of access – known as tier one and which could identify individual pupils – is only open to a small number of approved applicants, and details identifying individual pupils cannot be divulged.
Condition of access includes compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. This means providing proof of registration with the information commissioner’s office, having appropriate security arrangements in place to process the data, using the data only for the specific purpose requested, keeping it only for the specified length of time and not sharing it without prior written approval.
Why are people worried about the use of the data?
Some people fear the Home Office could use the database to identify foreign-born families, or match the findings to its own immigration database. The timing of the census has heightened this worry.
The change was suggested a year ago, but the subsequent vote in favour of leaving the European Union has left the immigration status of EU nationals living in the UK much less clear than it was 12 months ago. With Liam Fox suggesting that they could be “one of our main cards in the negotiations” for Brexit, and the home secretary, Amber Rudd, suggesting companies could be forced to reveal how many foreign workers they have, the political atmosphere is highly charged.
Campaigners say the Home Office has a record of accessing other government departments’ data, but the DfE’s official line is that the information will not be shared: “These data items will not be passed to the Home Office. They are solely for internal DfE use for analysis, statistics and research,” it said.
It is worth noting that the Home Office could already do something similar through existing HMRC tax records.
Can you opt out of the data collection?
Yes, to a point. The DfE’s guidance to schools allows parents and carers to refuse to supply the information on nationality and place of birth. It is the first time parents have been given that right in the school census. The school will still supply all the other data it already collects on pupils.
Should you boycott the birth and nationality questions?
It’s very much a matter of personal conscience.
It is unlikely the Home Office is trawling the NPD looking for immigrants. It doesn’t currently have the capacity, though it could perhaps in the future. Many school leaders are in favour of the data collection, because it helps them argue for further funding for new places and additional support for those needing to learn English.
Boycotting the data collection would send a strong signal to the DfE that they are being too intrusive in their methodology, and that parents are concerned about the potential abuse of the data in the future. One thing is clear though: no schools should be badgering parents to see passports, and parents are entirely right to be refusing these requests.