Scottish teachers are being encouraged to report any concerns over the sexual wellbeing of their pupils to the child’s ‘Named Person’, or state guardian, but not to the child’s parents under new government guidelines. The advice has deepened concerns by campaigners that parents are being marginalised by the Named Person policy. A Christian organisation is seeking legal advice on whether the guidelines can be challenged.
Under Scottish law, all children, regardless of whether or not they are deemed to be at risk, are allocated to a Named Person – a state guardian who is tasked with monitoring their wellbeing. That policy has already provoked anger from campaigners who are concerned that the government is side-lining parents and replacing them with the state.
The Named Person policy is already being legally challenged by the Christian Institute, who is also seeking advice on the new sex education guidelines. A campaign spokesman has lambasted the decision to issue the guidelines as “incredibly crass,” considering that the Named Person policy is still subject to a judicial review.
The new guidelines make no mention of parents in the entire section on confidentiality. Instead, the document advises that if a teacher suspects a child is involved in “underage sexual activity” which may pose a “risk to the child’s wellbeing, staff should inform the child’s Named Person.” (Extraordinarily, it appears to suggest that teachers may wish to simply turn a blind eye to underage sexual activity which they deem not harmful, despite it being illegal).
In addition, it states that “The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will introduce duties in respect of sharing information likely to be relevant to a child’s wellbeing with a child’s Named Person,” and also that “Where a teacher receives information which affects or is likely to affect the wellbeing of a child or young person, relevant information must be shared as appropriate with the child’s Named Person,” – but again makes no mention of parents.
A spokesman for the campaigning group NO2NP said “It beggars belief a teacher with concerns about the well-being of a child – including under-age sexual activity, which is a serious criminal offence – should be told by the government to pass on those concerns to the named person and not the child’s parents.
“Parents aren’t mentioned at all in the entire section on confidentiality in this guidance. The Government think the named person is entitled to know confidential, sexual health information about a child that its own parents are not.”
He added that the document was further evidence of governmental efforts to side-line the crucial role that parents play in raising their children, which was likely to further erode trust between parents and the state.
“The guidance’s empty platitudes about partnership between parents and schools are negated by the priority given to the named person’s role. What parent is going to feel they can co-operate with teachers if they know they will keep them in the dark about their child’s sexual activity but will share it with the named person?” he said.
Liz Smith, the Conservative education spokeswoman, commented: “I have huge problems with this. Parents will be very concerned that the first person who children will go to is the named person. Parents are being marginalised.”