The UK government's National Pupil Database has already been used to combat "abuse of immigration control" - despite ministerial assurances that the collection of pupils’ nationality will not be passed to the border officials.
That is according to a latest Freedom of Information response published by the Department for Education.
The DfE's database now contains records of 20 million pupils, dating from the year 2000. That information includes names, postcodes, ethnicity, records on absence, reasons for exclusion, types of disability, and whether the pupil is a recipient of free school meals.
Controversially, the DfE has extended its use to include information on pupils nationality collected through the school census from this September.
Campaigners says the fact the NPD has already been used for immigration purposes raises serious questions as to whether details of pupils’ nationality could also be used for this purpose in the future.
But in two separate Parliamentary Questions in July, Nick Gibb, minister for School Standards, gave assurances that no other departments would be granted access to the data on pupils’ nationality.
He said: “The data will be collected solely for internal departmental use for the analytical, statistical and research purposes. There are currently no plans to share the data with other government departments unless we are legally required to do so."
The department had previously admitted in a FoI response that since April 2012, 21 requests for information had been granted to the police, while 18 requests for information were granted to the Home Office.
In a follow-up response recently published, it said the requests to the police were either to inform criminal investigations or to protect children’s interests, while the Home Office requests were to support the department in its duty of care for missing children and abuse of immigration control.
Jen Persson, coordinator of privacy group defenddigitalme, said: "Data in the National Pupil Database is not being used as the minister said, solely for internal Departmental use for the analytical, statistical and research purposes, but for matching lists of named people, in back-room data dealings, without any public transparency.
"This is exactly what parents and school staff are telling us from across the country that they feared. Teachers are being made into border guards and secret police. Any use in deportation enforcement and other immigration controls - past, present or future - would be a shattering breach of trust by government that parents and teachers place in schools.
"All these past uses and purposes need to come out with urgency. The new country-of-birth and nationality data policy is toxic and needs dumped."
Against Borders for Children co-founder Gracie Mae Bradley added: "There is still time to resist this divisive and risky scheme. We are urging all schools who have not yet submitted their autumn census or collected the data for January to put down ‘Not yet obtained’ as the default answer for all children to the country-of-birth and nationality questions, until they know exactly who will use this data and why."
The Register has asked the Department for Eduction for comment. ®