Asylum-seeker pupil who ‘looks 40 and has thinning hair’ pictured after joining Coventry school as 15-year-old
A SCHOOL pupil who recently moved to the UK looks like a 40-year-old man and there is “no way” he is a teen, worried parents said today.
Coventry City Council was forced to send a letter to parents after the pupil took his place in classes earlier this month.
The letter sparked fear among parents that the male did not possess a birth certificate or passport for officials to prove his age before enrolling.
A school spokesman has since told The Sun they had been able to verify the student’s age – but couldn’t reveal how.
Photos of the student, an asylum seeker understood to be from Gambia, West Africa, were posted on Facebook after one schoolgirl shared the images in a private Snapchat questioning his age.
The girl’s mum said she was then called into school to discuss the issue with teachers and that they were concerned sharing photos of the new classmate amounted to bullying.
She said: “I said, ‘You can’t really blame the children [for talking about it] – he looks about 40’.
“They sort of nodded and said, ‘Yes – we did have concerns but we’ve been told that he is in fact Year 11 age’.
“I just felt a bit annoyed that the school was trying to shut down my daughter.
“I said, ‘I’m all for encouraging free speech and I don’t agree that it was bullying as such.’
“I’ve always encouraged my daughter to question things that don’t seem right.
“I got the impression that they were just annoyed that it had caused them hassle and that they had to spend time reassuring parents.
“The school has said it’s inappropriate for us to question his age.
“There’s absolutely no way this boy looks 15. He looks about 40 to me.”
Sarah Mills, head of education entitlement at Coventry City Council, penned the open letter last week following parents’ concerns.
She said: “All local authorities and trusts are obliged to work within the guidance as set out by the Department for Education and also immigration processes.
“When pupils arrive in England and present an application for a school place, we – local authorities and schools – are obliged to process these applications.
“If there are concerns or doubts regarding a pupil’s age at the time of application, schools and local authorities are able to ask for further evidence in the form of birth certificates and passports.
“However, please note, on some rare occasions if pupils arrive as asylum seekers and alone, i.e. without parents, these may not always be available.
“I am able to confirm [the school] follows all of these procedures and always seeks the city council’s support in such matters.
“In the last year [the school] has been able to follow procedures and further seek clarity for the identity of all pupils that have been placed on roll.”
But the mum said: “Parents are really concerned.
I don’t think quite a lot of parents feel safe sending their kids to school now.Mum of pupil at Coventry school
“They’ve claimed Coventry Council did the required checks and all the parents received a letter from them.
“Reading between the lines of the letter, I read it that they had not managed to obtain documentation.
“That’s the way I read it and I think a lot of parents did the same. It doesn’t really clarify anything at all.
“He’s got a receding hairline for God’s sake.”
One parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the Metro: “Pupils were coming home saying there’s a man in our class, some were even saying they reckoned he could be aged up to 40.
“He has a thin hairline and apparently he has no birth certificate or passport. He might be the right age, he might not. Either way parents would like some clarity.”
The student is believed to have travelled to Britain alone before he was placed at the unnamed school in Coventry.
A spokesman for the school said: “While it is inappropriate to comment on individual pupils, we can confirm we have clear procedures in place in conjunction with the local authority to ensure all of our pupils have the right to attend and learn [at the school].
“Where a pupil from overseas applies for a school place, we follow the guidance set out by the Department for Education and, where necessary, seek evidence, in the form of a birth certificate and passport to confirm the pupil’s identity and age.
“I want to reassure parents we have followed all the correct procedures regarding the identity of all pupils placed on the school roll.”