Schoolchildren as young as 14 in Tayside and Fife will be asked about their sexual experience in a national health and wellbeing census.
The Courier asked the Scottish Government and councils in our area if we could see the controversial Q&A to be completed during the 2021/22 academic year so we could share it with parents
Eventually the government showed us the recommended questions, but none of the local authorities showed us their finalised surveys for P5 to S6 children in Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth and Kinross.
They did, however, outline their approaches to the census.
One question drafted by the government for pupils in S4 and above asks: “How much, if any, sexual experience have you had?” Multiple choice answers include ‘oral sex’ and ‘vaginal or anal sex’.
Local authorities have the power to choose which of the recommended questions – drawn up by a Scottish Government-convened group – they ask pupils.
So we asked the following questions of Angus Council, Dundee City Council, Fife Council and Perth and Kinross Council:
Can you show us the census or the questions in it about sexual experience that will be put to pupils – and can you tell us when it will be conducted?
These are their responses.
Angus Council pointed out there were different surveys for specific age groups, and said S4 to S6 pupils will be asked to complete them before Christmas.
P5 to S3 pupils will be surveyed between January and March.
A spokeswoman said: “It is important to note that questions about relationships and sexual health are asked only in the senior phase where such topics will have already been discussed as part of the health and wellbeing curriculum (i.e. S4 upwards).
“Pupils are only asked certain questions where relevant. For example, if a young person responds that they have not had any sexual experiences, they will not see any further questions about this.”
Parents and carers will receive information in advance and pupils can opt-out or skip questions, she said, adding: “It is hoped that all children and young people offered the survey will take part so that we have a full picture of how local services for children in Angus can be strengthened.”
Perth and Kinross
Perth and Kinross Council confirmed it will ask the questions as composed by the Scottish Government, and provided a list of topics – but not the specific questions – included in the census.
A spokeswoman said: “All Scottish councils, including Perth & Kinross, were asked to take part in the Scottish Government’s national health and wellbeing census and make the survey available to P5-S6 pupils during the current school session.
“The Scottish Government survey covers a range of themes and topics, allocated appropriately by school stage, as outlined.
“Councils have the choice to add or remove survey questions if they wish; we will be using the survey as provided to councils by the Scottish Government.
“Parents/carers are being advised in advance about the census and the option for them and their children to opt-out in advance.”
Dundee City Council intends to make its survey public before the end of this month – but is not ready to do so just yet.
A spokesman said: “The city council is currently completing its questionnaires and we plan to publish the census questionnaires on our website.
“Questions will differ across stages.
“Those questions on sexual health will only be asked of young people in the senior phase of secondary school from S4 upwards, when such topics will have already been discussed as part of the health and wellbeing curriculum.
“Participation in the national survey is completely voluntary and it is up to parents, carers and children and young people themselves to decide whether children and young people should take part.”
Shelagh McLean, Fife Council’s head of education and children’s services, initially confirmed council plans to use the Scottish Government census in schools over the next few months.
She said: “This Scotland-wide census has been designed to help us understand the health and wellbeing picture for young people in Scotland and the themes that emerge in terms of their needs.
“It is made up of anonymous, voluntary surveys, developed over a number of years by the Scottish Government in partnership with health professionals.
“The questions asked vary according to the age of the children and the Scottish Government has confirmed that these questions are age appropriate.
“All pupils will be supported in school if they wish to take part.
“The information from the surveys within the census will help us plan how we target resources and develop the curriculum to respond appropriately to the needs of our children and young people.”
But on Thursday, Fife councillors decided to postpone the survey until it can be scrutinised by the region’s education and children’s services sub-committee at its next meeting on March 1.