Parent group calls for abolishing ‘unfair’ school census

The head of Scotland’s largest parenting group has condemned the Scottish government’s “unfair” health and wellbeing census for schools, which ask teens about sex, and urged it to be abolished.

That document has been at the center of controversy for asking secondary students S4 (senior four) and above about their relationships and sexual health, including a question asking them to list whether they had What a sexual experience.

The census is administered by local authorities and due to be completed this school year.

Eileen Pryor, chief executive of Connect, a charity that works to engage parents and caregivers in children’s learning and school life, said the survey “doesn’t fit the purpose”.

We are deeply concerned that youth are not clearly aware of what is in the survey, what it is for, who is running the survey and how their data will be used.connect letters

She has written on behalf of the parents to Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Shirley-Anne Somerville, listing “serious concerns” about privacy and how questions are written.

In the letter, seen by PA reporters, the census has been criticized for “very skewed leanings” because it uses the words “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” that are “outdated and inappropriate.”

Students are also asked about oral sex, to which Ms. Prior writes: “Why would policy makers need to know about oral sex?”

Ms. Prior raises questions about the confidentiality of the information provided by the students.

The letter reads: “There is no statement to say who will look at the data and specifically what the research objectives are.

“The information collected clearly makes children and youth identifiable at the school, local authority or national level.

“There is no mention of how the data will be stored (or) how access will be restricted or managed.”


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stands with the controversial census (Fraser Bremer/Daily Mail/PA)

It added: “We are deeply concerned that young people may not have a clear idea of ​​what a survey is about, what it is for, who is running the survey and how their data will be used, stored (and how will it be destroyed).

It is understood that information commissioners are investigating data security concerns about the census, with at least 10 councils deciding to unilaterally withdraw or review it.

Ms Pryor said other concerns include a lack of advice for parents and caregivers when answering questions that are “deeply personal and potentially very distressing for vulnerable children and young people.” may be”.

It also selected sections of the survey that it deemed “totally unacceptable”.

These include asking children to make statements such as “false”, “somewhat true” or “definitely true”, “I get very angry and often lose my temper”, “I fight a lot”, “get at me often”. are accused” questions. lying or deceiving”, “I am often sad, sad or tearful”.

“We don’t believe this method of collecting data and the lack of sensitivity shown towards youth
acceptable or appropriate,” she said.

“Indeed, they ask about their additional support for vulnerable youth, their behavior and learning needs, but in a very intrusive, negative and critical way.”

If children and young people participate, they can drop any questions they don’t want answered or state that they don’t want to sayScottish government spokesman

During First Minister’s Questions last month, Ms Sturgeon said the census was not mandatory for local officials to use at school amid a wave of criticism about its content.

However, he said it was important to ensure that public services were informed by a live experience.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Either we can bury our heads in the sand and pretend young people are not aware of the issues or pressures we know they are exposed to.

“Or we can try to better understand the reality that young people face and provide them with guidance, advice and services to make safe, healthy and positive decisions. I choose the latter.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Health and wellbeing surveys like these are not new and play a vital role in ensuring that children and young people have access to the support, advice and services they need.

“Parents/carers and children, and youth are informed of how their data will be used before participating in the census and may decide to opt out if they wish.

“If children and youth participate, they can drop any questions they do not want answered or state that they would prefer to say no.

“While the Scottish Government has worked with stakeholders to design a set of questionnaires, it is for local authorities to determine which questions they ask.

“We fully support the administration of this important census, and we will continue to engage with stakeholders on its implementation.”