This morning I read about a vile data trawl on our school children in Scotland. A private company and registered charity called The Social Research Unit, registered with the Charity Commission under the name The Warren House group (charity no 1099202) compiled a questionnaire for school children. The organisers said “We want to know what children and young people need to grow up healthy, ready to learn and prepared for success in life” Okay. So why were questions below asked and why was the consent for this intrusion so poorly monitored?
a few were downright creepy.
Children as young as nine were asked how many times they had carried a knife, sold illegal drugs, turned up for school high, been arrested, or stolen something; how many times they had used prescription drugs that not been prescribed by a doctor; how many times they had drunk alcohol. They were asked whether they felt ‘very close’ to their mother (one little girl whose mother had just died was upset by this question). They were invited to say whether ‘people in my family often insult or shout at each other’.
The questionnaire for older children, from 14 upwards, included a section on sexual activity. The pupils were asked in Q31 if they had ever had sexual intercourse – ‘vaginal or anal sex’, as the questionnaire helpfully added. They were then asked to reveal how many people they had had vaginal or anal sex with in the last year.
Had they ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had a sexually transmitted disease or infection? Six possibilities were named. How many times had they been pregnant or got someone pregnant? ‘Not sure’ was one of the options. How many children had they given birth to or fathered? Were they currently pregnant? Was their partner currently pregnant? And so it went on.
In the interests of ‘better planning’ of local services, it was also deemed necessary to inquire about the state of mind – even the possible suicidal intentions – of the respondents. To the proposition ‘I am often unhappy, downhearted or tearful’, the children were asked to reply ‘Not true’, ‘Somewhat true’ or ‘Certainly true’. There was no guide to the meaning of the phrase ‘Somewhat true’.
Read Kenneth Roy’s article in the Scottish Review and make up your own mind. Do our schools have a right to be asking such invasive questions of our children?