A survey in which children were asked about sex, knives and drugs has been slammed by parents.
Perth pupils were asked to fill in the “wellbeing” survey as part of a research project, which could be rolled out across Scotland.
Sections in which children are asked about their weight, sexual habits, drugs and whether they carry knives have left parents furious.
Scales were even provided in some schools for children to weigh themselves and some classes were apparently told to keep the questions secret from their parents.
There are two versions of the survey one for 9-13-year-oldsand one for older children, the second of which contains graphic sexual references.
One shocked mother said: “The questions were totally inappropriate. If I had known the content, there’s no way I would have let my daughter take part.”
A local MSP said such surveys “deny children their childhood.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Evidence2Success is a good example of a local authority engaging with their communities to ascertain what services are needed in their communities.”
However, the survey sparked less favourable reaction across Courier Country. Dundee City Council said it was not involved in the scheme, while North East MSP Alex Johnstone said he was “appalled” at the nature of the questions.
The £225,000 survey is part of a project called Evidence2Success imported from the USA, which is being piloted in Perth and Kinross. It has been backed by NHS Tayside and Tayside Police through the local Community Planning Partnership.
Parents were asked to give consent for their children to take part and the youngsters were told participation was voluntary, questions could be left unanswered and they could stop at any point.
The 24-page survey quizzes pupils about whether they have attended school “drunk, on drugs or high” and had numerous questions about named drugs such as heroin, cocaine, LSD and former “legal highs” like Bubbles or Meow.
Pupils were asked to reveal their financial circumstances and even asked whether or not kids agreed that “all in all, I am inclined to think that I am a failure”.
The mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said; “My daughter is nine and what nine-year-old is going to say she doesn’t want to take part?
“But she came home full of questions about drugs, knives and other things notions which I just didn’t want her having in her head at that age.
“There were references to specific drugs some of which I hadn’t even heard of and she was asking about them. What was I supposed to say?
“She had no concept of carrying a knife or smoking cannabis or getting high but all those things are now in her head because she was asked about them.
“Had I known the content, there is no way I would have let her take part. I’m not nave but surely it was unsuitable?”
Another mother of primary pupils was furious about other questions.
She said: “I work so hard on body image and confidence with my children but suddenly they’re being asked about their weight in school. It shouldn’t be a consideration at that age.
“There were also questions where the children had to compare each other academically which I was unhappy about.”
Despite rumours circulating among parents, there were no questions in the nine to 13-year-olds’ survey about sex, although the quiz for older pupils 14 to 16-year-olds specifically asked them if and when they had had sex and if they had contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
The backlash prompted Perth and Kinross Council to post a clarification on its Facebook page to dispel rumours.
The authority had refused to release the survey to parents until all pupils had had the chance to participate.
Liz Smith, a local MSP and the Conservative spokeswoman for education, children and young people, said: “I think many parents will rightly be deeply concerned about the nature of several of the questions asked in the survey, most especially when inappropriate references are being made to sexual and drug-related conduct amongst children as young as nine.
“Asking such personal and intrusive questions of children as young as nine seems intent upon denying them their childhood.”
The council issued a robust defence of the survey, coordinated by Perth and Kinross Community Planning Partnership the council, Tayside Police, NHS Tayside and voluntary sector with the Dartington Social Research Unit.
A spokesman said: “In order to design services effectively, information about the lives of children and young people is required. We need to build up a picture of the views and experiences of young people across our different communities. The wellbeing survey is allowing us to do that.”
He said all answers remain confidential and children were allowed to opt out at any stage.
“The survey was examined by an ethics committee of social policy experts before it was carried out, and no concerns were raised. Within a wide range of questions, pupils are asked about how many friends they have, whether their family argues, about any experience they have had with tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and whether they have carried a weapon.
“Pupils can answer ‘don’t know’ or skip any of the questions at any point.”
He stressed there were no questions about sexual abuse, parental drink and drug consumption, weekly household income or how intelligent children think they are.
He said: “Pupils have not been required to have their weight or height measured. Some schools have provided scales and measuring equipment for pupils so that they can check their own measurements if they so wish.”
For more on this story, including more reaction from local parents, see Saturday’s Courier or try our new digital edition.