‘These are a bit dodgy’: North Ayrshire parent outraged with sex questions in controversial survey

An outraged North Ayrshire parent has hit out at the council for allowing their child to be subjected to an ‘invasive’ Scottish Government survey without their consent.

One parent of an Irvine fifth-year pupil claimed their child was told to fill out the Scottish Government’s health and wellbeing census last month, which included sexual questions, without prior notification.

Children from primary five to sixth-year pupils are given the option to complete a survey which covers a range of topics including some or all of the following…

  • mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing
  • planning for choices and changes
  • physical education, physical activity and sport
  • food and health
  • substance misuse
  • relationships, sexual health and parenthood

Despite a disclaimer that pupils will be anonymous, the survey requires all participants to put in their Scottish candidate number at the start of filling out the survey.

Primary school pupils are not asked sexual questions. However, those in fourth year and above are asked.

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One question was: ‘How much, if any, sexual experience have you had?’

Kids can choose from; “Kissing, some intimate touching on top of clothes; Some experiences but no sexual intercourse (eg touching intimately clothes underneath or without clothes on); More experiences, including oral sex or; vaginal or anal sex.”

The survey goes on to ask the children who have had penetrative sex if they have done so more than once and if they wore a condom.

It also peers into how old students were when they lost their virginity, starting from ’13 or younger’ and if they consumed alcohol or drugs before having sex for the first time.

The angry parent told Ayrshire Live: “Why does the council need to know if my 16-year-old daughter has had anal sex?

“As an adult, I wouldn’t answer these questions let alone asking our school kids.

“It’s ludicrous. I don’t understand the need for it. It’s very inappropriate and highly invasive. I don’t see what they’d be able to gain from that information or how honest they expect teenagers to be.

“It’s also not anonymous because kids are identifiable from their Scottish candidate number.

“I called the school and told them I wasn’t happy about not being informed about the survey and they told me the decision was that of North Ayrshire Council.”

Of 32 local authorities in Scotland, 10 rejected the health and wellbeing census.

North Ayrshire Council defended utilizing the survey by claiming parents and carers can opt out of it.

A spokesperson said: “Following a motion at a meeting of North Ayrshire Council on Wednesday, December 8, councilors agreed that we should participate in the survey.

“The decision to proceed with the survey is on the basis that participation is optional and pupils themselves and their parents/carers can opt out of the survey altogether or leave any questions that they are not comfortable with unanswered.”

However, the concerned parent stands firm they were not told about the survey beforehand.

They said: “I was never emailed by the school or North Ayrshire Council to ask if it was okay for my daughter to complete this questionnaire.

“My daughter is 16 years old, so above the age of consent, but given the questions they asked I think they should be asking parents for consent until the age of 18.

“I found out about it from a Facebook post and when I asked my daughter about it, she said she had already filled it out.”

“My daughter said to her teacher, ‘These questions are a bit dodgy’, but the teacher responded, ‘I know, but it just needs filled out’. And she never needed to fill it out.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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