Education in Falkirk: Council decide to drop controversial 'sex survey"

A controversial survey of school pupils has been axed by Falkirk Council after a backlash over some of the questions posed.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th December 2021, 11:17 am

The Scottish Government wanted all local authorities to send out the Health and Wellbeing survey to primary and secondary schoolchildren with the aim of discovering views on everything from diet to bullying, eating behaviours to attitude to school.

However, the section for pupils in S4 to S6 has caused an outcry with questions posed on sexual experiences and contraception.

They also want youngsters to reveal if they have used alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

The Health and Wellbeing survey will no longer be sent to Falkirk Council pupils

Critics have said the Scottish Government is showing a “desire to force kids into growing up too quickly”, while others said they were astonished at the sexually explicit language used in the questions.

One question - for pupils in S4 and S6 - probes people’s varying degrees of sexual experience, with multiple choice answers including “oral sex” and “vaginal or anal sex”.

Others quiz teenagers on contraception methods and what age they were when they had sex for the first time.

Grangemouth man David Farquhar said he was “absolutely horrified” by the contents of the survey.

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He added: “What councillor or party would support this perverse census?

"I have contacted Falkirk councillors and my MSP to raise the alarm as this is shameful and disgusting.

“I want all political parties to speak out and make their views known now, on this serious issue as it concerns everyone with children and grandchildren.”

Some Falkirk Council schools had already circulated the questionnaire but after a rethink, education chiefs have decided it should be withdrawn.

Around ten other local authorities, including West Lothian and Fife, are understood to have decided to withdraw, censor or review the census.

A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said: “We have decided to no longer circulate this survey.

"Some schools who have already circulated it will be in contact with parents shortly asking them to disregard the questionnaire.

"We recognise the concerns of a number of parents and carers and in line with many other local authorities across Scotland, have agreed to not proceed any further.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The census is administered by local government to provide information about the health and wellbeing of children and young people, to help improve the support that they provide. Whilst the Scottish Government has worked with stakeholders to design a set of questionnaires, it is for local authorities to determine which questions they actually ask. However the Scottish Government fully supports administering of this important census.

“Health and wellbeing surveys like this one are not new and play a crucial role in ensuring children and young people have access to the help, advice and services they need. Parents and carers can opt out from their child taking part, and the child themselves can choose to opt out.

“We are in regular dialogue with the local authorities, and monitoring progress.

"Currently seven local authorities are not taking part in the census – six authorities had previously indicated they weren’t using the census citing a range of reasons including:

• having undertaken their own health and wellbeing surveys of pupils earlier this year;

• capacity issues with ongoing Covid case management; or,

• they are opting to use existing local data from their information management systems.”

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