THE Home Office is urgently investigating an asylum-seeker pupil who joined the school as a 15-year-old but "is balding and looks 40".
It comes after worried parents reported their kids came home from school saying he looked far too old to be in Year 11.
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.
The Sun understands the Home Office is now looking into the situation "urgently".
The guidelines in place for the age assessment process seek to balance ensuring children are given the right support, while stopping adults passing themselves off as kids.
If there isn't any evidence to prove an age, Home Office staff will treat someone as an adult if their appearance and demeanour suggest they are over 25 and two officers independently come to the same conclusion.
Anyone undergoing the verification process will be treated as a child until a decision is made.
A spokesperson said: "Our asylum system is broken and in drastic need of reform.
"We will seek to stop abuse of the system while ensuring it is compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.”
A school spokesman had 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."
I don't think quite a lot of parents feel safe sending their kids to school now.
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."
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].
But the mum said: "Parents are really concerned.
"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."
It comes two years after a schoolboy in Ipswich, who said he was 15 but was accused by classmates of being a 30-year-old man, was found to be an adult.
The pupil – alleged to be an asylum seeker from the Middle East – was removed from the school – after an official report assessed him as being over 18 years of age.
An investigation was launched when a pupil posted a picture of their new classmate in uniform in a classroom on Snapchat with a message saying: “How’s there a 30-year-old man in our maths class?”
Parents were shocked, and some even removed their children from the school as classmates shared old pictures of him on Facebook, showing him with a full beard, a hairy chest and swigging a beer.
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