Questioning Pupils

It has been a rough time for Scottish education
A tough time for learning in Scottish secondary education


With its customary gauche habit, the Scottish Government has sent a multiple choice questionnaire to secondary schools asking intimate sex questions of pupils. Understandably, this has caused controversy among all sections of society, a bureacracy meddling in young lives, the action viewed as intrusive, prurient, and sleazy. Who the data is for, its purpose, is not clarified. Calls for the survey to be withdrawn are so far ignored by the SNP administration. Political activist Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh takes the census to task.


by Tasmina Ahmed- Sheikh

This has been a really tough time for Scottish Education. Of course, it has been a rough time for us all. But as a mother I constantly worry for my own school-age children, as indeed do all parents.

The very worst thing about Covid for my kids was not keeping them off school – although that was bad enough. It was having to send them back unvaccinated, into an environment where I knew they were at risk of catching a disease with unknown long-term consequences.

Thanks to the JCVI, a prevaricating and unfit-for-purpose vaccination committee and a bunch of buck-passing, feartie politicians, the eventual decision to vaccinate teenagers was delayed until after the kids were back at school. I have thus nothing but admiration for our teachers, who soldiered on in these dangerous circumstances in the full knowledge that viral transmission in partially vaccinated schools would be widespread. So it has proved. Given all these challenges, pressures and difficulties affecting our schools, what seems to be the immediate priority of the now dysfunctional Education Scotland under their permanently dozing at the wheel SNP/Green ministers?

They appear to have gathered round some e-table at Victoria Quay with the Education Analytical Services team to work out how to offend the maximum number of people – teachers, parents and local councillors – by proposing to survey all 14-year-olds and upwards on when they last had vaginal and/or anal sex. And what’s even worse, to use precious class time to complete this prurient nonsense.

Latter-day Mary Whitehouse

Forget the know-all, right-on commentators who claim the spiralling objections to this insane exercise come from old fashioned prigs; some latter-day Mary Whitehouses. I am neither a prude nor old fashioned, but a concerned parent who will not have my young daughters subjected to this embarrassing and dangerous rubbish, and who now totally despairs of the priorities of Education Scotland in the middle of the pandemic crisis.

I doubt if any of the handful of remaining defenders of the census have actually read the offending questions. Indeed, I can be pretty sure of that, given the lengths to which flustered councils are now going to keep them secret. In contrast, I have examined the full question sets and the self-contradictory, self-justifying gobbledegook which accompanies them.

It contains sexually explicit questions that you wouldn’t ask an adult relative, never mind a child. As a matter of fact, grown-up local councillors have been censured at meetings for attempting to read out the same offensive questions that the Scottish Government now want to foist upon our children.

The whole exercise is in any case self-defeating, in that many of the questions, eg on drug use, may well elicit responses based on peer pressure as opposed to real lived experience. Some other questions, eg on body image for Primary 5 pupils, will certainly create problems, even where none exist. There has been no regard whatsoever for safeguarding or the danger of potential re-traumatisation of children provoked by the triggering nature of the questions asked.

‘Sharing data’

A glance at the accompanying long-winded, opaque “privacy notice” shows it is a data protection disaster waiting to happen. Do they really think it is reassuring to say that they may “share individual-level data” with “Education Scotland”, “Academic Institutions” and “other public bodies”? That in and of itself is surely a potential breach of Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the same Scottish Government went to the Supreme Court to defend their attempt to write into law.

Finally, it is not a census because eight local authorities have already withdrawn, and there will be a stampede to follow. Given that parents and children can refuse to take part, it is a self-selecting and biased sample. The subset of children prepared to say which contraceptives they are using, is not, by definition, a representative sample.

The under-fire bureaucrats are clearly starting to buckle under the pressure. Apparently in all sobriety (see question 21) their spokespeople have opined that it would be “irresponsible” for local authorities to withdraw from a well-being survey during a pandemic. Clearly under the influence of hallucinogens (see question 23) they actually claim that only West Lothian Council have withdrawn because of the intrusive and embarrassing nature of the questions. These people are totally divorced from reality.

The folly of ministers

The hard truth is that they are at best fools and at worst facilitators. The ministers who have allowed this nonsense to get this far are even more culpable. Every single piece of information the census required could have been properly garnered from a statistically balanced sample. I mean, have they never heard of representative sample polling? But of course, it would have been useful to have a proper census – not an anonymised one, but one which asked all our children real-world questions for real action.

For example, our kids could have been asked when they last had a square breakfast before setting out for school and then offered school meals for every child all year round; they could have been asked how they are coping with the pressures of the pandemic and whether they would benefit from counselling; they could have been asked how far behind they felt in their studies and offered tutoring, like the private school pupils will get. And then having asked, we could actually have done something practical to help support our children in their time of need.

But all of that sensible action is above and beyond the boffins in Education Scotland, who would prefer to spend years analysing their precious census and then release the anonymised and sensational data to the delight of the red tops and achieve and do absolutely nothing of any worth whatsoever.

And meanwhile back at chalk-face and the school desk, the teachers and children of Scotland wait for support and resources – and wait, and wait, and wait.

NOTE: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh OBE WP NS, is a former MP, (Ochil & South Perthshire), now a member of the ALBA Party, and is the producer of the Alex Salmond Show, a political interview programme. She was born in Chelsea, London in 1970, and raised in Edinburgh. Her mother is a half-Welsh, half-Czech actress who performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and completed a law degree in her retirement. Her father, Mohammad bin Ashiq Rizvi, MA, LL.B, JP, was born in British India but brought up in Pakistan after Partition. He moved to Britain in 1962.  She was educated at Craigmount High School, George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh (MA) and the University of Strathclyde (LLB & Postgraduate Diploma in Law). Tasmina is a columnist for The National newspaper.


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13 Responses to Questioning Pupils

  1. duncfmac says:

    Absolutely spot on!

  2. xsticks says:

    Stonewall, Shirley-Anne Summerville, Sturgeon.

  3. Brian Watson says:

    I have a daughter with school age daughters who is expected to comply with these insidious directives from on high . In the words of Oliver Cromwell to the General Assembly of the CofS ” I beseech you in the bowels of Christ think it possible you may be mistaken ” .

  4. Derek Aitken says:

    We need immediate drug testing of all members of the Scottish Government and Parliament and everyone in Education Scotland. These people are having a direct effect on people’s lives.
    Psychiatric testing would also not go amiss.
    You are absolutely correct Tasmina surveys are necessary but there are higher priority problems to address.

  5. duncanio says:

    I read Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s article in The National and was astonished how little interest in generated given its content.

    The usual SNP attack dogs held their wheesht in the btl comments – it’s a sensitive subject and I suppose they don’t wish to bring attention to such a sensitive subject presumably for fear that it will reflect badly on their party and its leadership.

    At least now I see that the Indian Council of Scotland are protesting their disapproval (see but this really needs to be publicised much more loudly.

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    Graf: all’s well at the book order address. Try again: 🙂

  7. John Jones says:

    tell we will comply as soon as all the MSPs fill this out and publish the results. should make for some interesting reading. especially from the males, naw didny think so!

  8. Michael Loftus says:

    What qualifications are required to be a member of Education Scotland, I say this, as it appears that none are required. This so called census will be embarrassing to the majority of children.
    Education Scotland should remove the word Education from their title as clearly none of them have a clue.
    Tasmina is spot on with her review.

  9. marionl99 says:

    Timely and excellent article.

    “The hard truth is that they are at best fools and at worst facilitators. The ministers who have allowed this nonsense to get this far are even more culpable. ”

    Every MSP and Councillor who fails to call this out as the abuse of power that it is must be held culpable. We cannot allow those who hold authority and choose to be silent to consider themselves anything but complicit.

  10. alfbaird says:

    Braw airticle bi Tasmina.

    Thon Anglophone heid bummers in Education Scotlan winnae e’en lairn Scots bairns thair ain mither tung! I doubt Education Scotland elites would inflict this dubious questionnaire on their own privately schooled bairns. Scots need independence to rid ourselves of oppressive Cultural Imperialism in all its forms, as well as Linguistic Imperialism, which includes alien ideologies such as lies behind this questionnaire and so much more the colonial administration is foisting upon us.

    Last chance saloon for any ‘good guys’ still in the SNP to bail out.

  11. ngataki5 says:

    I would like to know what the teachers unions are saying about this. They may have voiced an opinion and I may have missed it.
    I remember in the early 80’s in Germany there was a census that was so intrusive, asking questions about how much you earned, questions about your neighbours, if you knew if they were registered or not .For every unregistered householder the census gatherers found, there was a bounty.
    There was a massive backlash from the population; in every part of the city groups were formed, huge demonstrations were held and they finally had to drop the census.
    I hope if this census becomes widely known to the general public that we’ll see fireworks. If not I don’t know what’s wrong with the Scots.Get of your arses ffs, and start getting militant.

  12. diabloandco says:

    I find this all so disturbing and I am deeply worried for the kids involved, including my own grandchildren . The whole episode can only be termed abuse – Mary Whitehouse wasn’t all wrong.

    I despair of what this government have done , the damage it has allowed. All those who stay silent in the SNP had better look to their seats , the more people hear of these goings on the fewer votes they will glean and hell mend them.

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