UK.gov flushed away £15k defending pupil nationality data slurp – then canned scheme

Department for Education slammed over wasting cash

The Department for Education forked out £15,000 defending its controversial pupil nationality data slurp that was canned just months later.

The money was spent on drawing up legal defences against judicial challenge launched by campaigners against the scheme, which sucked up data on schoolchildren's nationality and country of birth.

The info was collected in the school census – a statutory survey that takes place three times a year – from 2016. However, the practice was officially scrapped in June last year, with schools reportedly told about the planned U-turn as early as April 2018.

The department's climbdown came amid pressure from campaigners who launched two judicial reviews of the nationality data collection – challenges that cost the department some £14,817.48 in legal fees. One challenge was brought in February, just months before the collection was tossed.

The cost was revealed in a Freedom of Information request sent to Schools Week. The publication said that the actual spend might be more, because the DfE had not included the total spending on its own lawyers during the challenges.

Jen Persson of Defend Digital Me, which submitted one of the legal challenges, slammed the department for wasting cash: "They have spent money defending a position they should never have taken in the first place."

The publication was also told that the Home Office contributed nothing to the fees – despite the fact that data in the National Pupil Database was used for immigration enforcement.

"No other government departments, including the Home Office, were involved in, or contributed to, the decision to collect this data, the design and implementation of the collection or the cost of any associated legal challenges. The Home Office contribution was therefore £0," Schools Week quoted the FoI as saying.

The DfE also emphasised that £5,000 of the total bill was recouped after the claimant had their request turned down by the High Court. ®




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