The policy proposal being weighed up by ministers, who constitute the inter-ministerial group (IMG) on migrants' access to benefits and public services, has been criticised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) the largest teachers union.
Ministers have been considering a plan to require schools to check the immigration status of their pupils, as part of a crackdown on "education tourists. It was revealed through leaked emails written by the officials of the Department for Education (DfE) in the past week.
The emails from civil servants advising the IMG – which includes schools minister David Laws and immigration minister Mark Harper – suggest that the group considered banning illegal immigrant children from schools. However, the civil servants warned that the UK would be in contravention of article 28 of the UN convention on the rights of the child if ministers took that step.
The email said that the group had asked that DfE looks further at the feasibility of carrying out checks on migrant status as part of school admissions. David Laws had asked for a cost-benefit analysis of carrying out the checks.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers commenting on priority motion, said that it was quite unacceptable for Ministers of the Department for Education to be considering banning children of immigrants deemed ‘illegal’ from schools.
She added that politicians were heard talking of immigrants as ‘health tourists’ which was unacceptable. The government must not create conditions that imply that children of immigrants were ‘education tourists’. The UK has obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which the Government must ensure is observed.
She said NUT was determined to support campaigns against racism and Islamophobia. The schools were needed to be harmonious, inclusive and respectful of the backgrounds of all the children and young people attending them.
One study published last May by Oxford University's centre on migration, policy and society estimated there were 120,000 children living in the UK without legal immigration status.
The Labour MP John McDonnell, who has seen the emails, said the immigration proposals were "scraping the barrel of morality".
Earlier Headteachers had also warned about the potential of such a proposal which would politicize the education process. Lesley Gannon, head of the policy at the National Association of Headteachers said it was very concerned about the idea.
She had said that children could not be held responsible for the behaviours of their parents, it was not simply fair. All codes of practice around admissions, behaviour and exclusions have always emphasised that schools had to deal with the child and not the parents in terms of their access to education and their treatment within the school.