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Education in the media: 25 October 2016

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Today’s news review looks at misleading coverage about the school census.

School census

Today, 25 October, the Independent published an article on the collection of data for the school census. The copy wrongly suggests that the department asks schools to guess pupils’ nationalities and to collect passport details.

This is not the case. We do ask that schools gather data on pupils’ country of birth, nationality and English proficiency. This will be used to help us better understand how children with, for example, English as an additional language perform in terms of their broader education, and to assess and monitor the scale and impact immigration may be having on the schools sector.

How schools gather this data is up to them and whether parents provide this data is optional. If parents don’t want to answer questions on nationality, country of birth or first language then they don’t have to. We do not ask schools to guess or ascribe a nationality in any circumstances – schools should simply record that the parent chose not to supply the data. There is no consequence for school or parent when this happens.

We also do not require schools to ask for children’s passports or birth certificates, as has been reported. The school census guidance, issued to schools in and local authorities in May, makes this absolutely clear.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Our guidance is clear that there is no requirement for headteachers to ascribe nationality or ethnicity to their pupils. A pupil’s background is personal to them, and if a parent or guardian does not wish to provide this information, schools should record ‘refused’ on their systems. We do not collect or ask for passport details.

Read the guidance we issued to schools here.

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