Scottish schoolchildren are to be questioned about their private lives in “Orwellian” psychological tests introduced as part of the SNP’s state guardian scheme, it has been alleged.
The No to the Named Person Campaign claimed that councils were using the questions to “squeeze confidential information” out of pupils that would be stored on local authority databases.
The results would be analysed so councils can identify which youngsters are potentially at risk at home. Among the methods identified is a prompt card system developed by Angus Council and adopted by other local authorities.
It urges named persons to ask pupils a series of questions about their domestic lives to assess whether they are at risk, such as whether their homes are “cosy”, details of their diets and who chooses what they wear.
The cards even question where pupils’ families go to buy their food and clothes, what their bedrooms look like and whether they have ever been in a dangerous situation.
Under the legislation, passed last year, the NHS will appoint a health worker to act as the named person for every child until the age of five. The responsibility will then pass to councils until the age of 18, with a teachers expected to adopt the role.
Ministers argue the measure is needed so that potential cases of abuse are spotted early but it is being challenged in the courts by campaigners arguing it breaches parents’ human rights.
Simon Calvert, of the No to Named Person campaign, said: “Psychologically manipulating youngsters so you can squeeze confidential information out of them is fundamentally wrong, but to store all this information on a giant council database is foolhardy.
“It really is beyond time that the Scottish Government called a halt to this whole charade before they do any more damage. It’s Orwellian, it’s immoral and it has to stop.”
Teachers across the country are being trained how to assess pupils, with some using a tool called “What I Think” designed for children up to the age of eight, including those at nursery. Information can come from a variety of sources such as conversations, drawings, photographs and recordings.
Named Persons are advised to obtain the data in a “natural” way so that youngsters do not suspect they are being targeted, for example discovering who prepares a child’s meal at home using a casual conversation at snack time.
The system also provides a number of sample scenarios that suggest a child could be at risk, such as them not missing their mother when they stayed overnight elsewhere or them being shouted at by their father after having an accident when playing alone in a park.
However, Maggie Mellon, vice-chairman of the British Association of Social Workers and a former director of the charity Children 1st, told the Mail on Sunday: “The fact that these actually very biased and partial anecdotes will be going on a national database is extremely worrying and should make everyone sit up and say ‘no’.
“Overall, this is a crude tool with no validity – but it will be used and the information interpreted as evidence of child abuse or neglect.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Councils are responsible for producing their own materials to aid discussions with young people and parents to ensure they are happy, well and healthy.
“If a health visitor or senior teacher, acting as a child’s named person, identifies any concerns about well-being they would be expected to offer advice and support, depending on the specific circumstances.”
Angus Council was yesterday unavailable for comment but told the Mail on Sunday the prompt cards were meant to “support” families rather than “assess” them.