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    Engage for education, or sign up for surveillance?

    8th October 2012 | Home Ed in the News | Law & Policy | Schoolhouse

    engage for education


    The Scottish Government’s Engage for Education website has been set up to enable all those interested in education to ‘have their say’.  According to the blurb:


    “Engage is the Scottish Government’s ground-breaking online project that enables the public and practitioners to discuss education, learning, youth employment and early years policy directly with the Ministers and teams responsible for them. Participants have the chance to influence and inform the decisions of the Scottish Government in these key areas and we aim to provide timely responses and updates, including answers directly from the Ministers involved with Engage.”


    An eagle-eyed home educator has already pointed out that the speech bubble on the website’s logo is empty, leading to concerns about possible censorship of off-message comments. However, that does not seem to be the case, since several such comments have cleared moderation on the Minister’s first blog post in an upcoming series from the GIRFEC Programme Board. There has, as yet, been no ministerial response to robust criticisms of the GIRFEC policy, which has been pushed so hard for so long, and, more worryingly for families, is already being implemented in advance of any statutory framework being in place.


    It is frankly disingenuous of the Scottish Government to claim that its proposed legislation will introduce


    “a dedicated first contact– such as a health visitor – to co-ordinate support and advice for every child who needs it“,


    when they plan to impose such a Named Person on every child full stop. Such misleading rhetoric has been the problem all along and has led to professionals being hoodwinked into believing that the GIRFEC project is about protecting vulnerable children rather than creating a universal citizen surveillance scheme.


    While the mainstream media have been lazily regurgitating government-spun press releases, Kenneth Roy has single-handedly laid the agenda bare in a series of articles in his Scottish Review.


    “GIRFEC has been marketed to compliant journalists – and, more generally, to the unsuspecting public – as a benevolent information-sharing project, enabling social work and education professionals, the police, doctors and health workers to co-operate more closely in identifying children at risk. Parroting the mantra ‘early intervention’ and invoking one or two notorious cases, GIRFEC’s promoters assure us that the project is ‘cutting bureaucracy’ and ‘achieving results’. These assurances have been swallowed whole without proper scrutiny of the claims or, more generally, of the underlying agenda.

    For reasons known only to the Scottish government and its partners, we have not been told the whole truth about GIRFEC: that, although it is ostensibly a child protection scheme concerned to help a tiny minority, it is actually the basis for the eventual profiling and surveillance of every child in Scotland.”


    Since home educators are always among the first to face the state steamroller, Schoolhouse first flagged up the intrusive Big Brother nature of GIRFEC back in 2009, having followed parallel developments elsewhere for many years. Others are now also far from convinced by the Putting children and young people at the centre trojan horse approach, and concerns are increasingly being expressed by families and professionals that parents are being written out the the new children’s bill.


    Assumptions by the Scottish Government that they know what is best for every child, and can gather and share sensitive personal information about every child, his/her family members and associated adults (not forgetting the pet goldfish), are dangerous in the extreme. We do not use the terms “paedophiles’ address book” or “data rape” lightly, but have done so in our response to the Children and Young People Bill proposals and make no apology for pointing out the perilous path being pursued by the Scottish Government in its drive towards Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen.



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    1. Kayley says:

      I’m not sure if schoolhouse is aware of this but some people already have a named person for their child without any cause. My health visitor informed me this week that people already have a named child and that with my eldest not being at school that role has fallen to her – I wasn’t even informed! Luckily this is the only woman in a role like this I would actually trust and I know her well but she has stated that in other cases the job may fall to someone from the LEA! I am frankly horrified that not only is this already going on but parents are not being kept in the loop.

    2. alisonp says:

      Yes, Schoolhouse is aware that this is already being done covertly and without question by an army of ‘professionals’, despite there being no statutory basis for GIRFEC (at least until they push through the CHYP Bill which still must comply with the ECHR). It’s known as “data rape”, as mentioned in the above article, because every child’s personal information is being gathered and shared by strangers at will (without informed consent for either) in violation of the right to privacy and data protection legislation. It’s also a shocking breach of trust and enough to turn service users into service refusers.

    3. Sheila Struthers says:

      It would seem I’m not allowed to “Engage for education”. Was it something I said (or tried to anyway)?

      In response to @girfec, I tried to post the following@

      “We’re very clear this isn’t about the Scottish Government dictating to parents about how to raise children. Parents know their children best. This is about ensuring that if parents need support, they know where to go and feel reassured help is available.”

      I’m sorry but this just isn’t true. Just one example of many:

      “This resource is designed for practitioners (it is not seen as helpful for children and families) and should be displayed in a place where practitioners can use it to remind themselves how and when the core components are used in Lanarkshire.”

      Amongst other things it includes a routine “parental assessment to provide well-being assessment” . Very reassuring for parents…

      The Lanarkshire Girfec team seem to have a particularly “direct” way of spelling things out, but however it is dressed up, Girfec, Gathering information for every citizen, involves the regular data rape of children, their families and associated adults.

      Here’s how I put it a couple of years ago:

      ” Just in case anyone thinks their family will be immune from all this, let’s go back to just a minor part of the vast amount of personal information the Scottish government intends to gather on every child (or foetus), their family and associated adults, the SHANNARI assessment:

      Safe: eg child protection, family of concern. Practical care ie home safety. Physical, social, emotional dangers ie bullying. Parental support concerns and identifiable risk factors ie parental drug and alcohol problems.
      Healthy: eg vision, hearing, growth, immunisations, medical conditions, ie asthma, epilepsy, attention deficit disorder, developmental co-ordination disorder, genetic disorders, allergies, skin conditions, enuresis, encopresis.
      Achieving: eg communication, language acquisition and expression, developmental milestones.
      Nurtured: eg provides love, emotional warmth, attachment, play stimulation and encouragement, physical and emotional care and an educationally rich environment. Accessed parenting programmes, accesses healthcare appropriately.
      Active: eg known physical disabilities. Receives stimulation and encouragement to learn; child able to access play and leisure activities.
      Responsibility and respected: eg any prejudices and tensions, level of resilience, self-esteem, sense of identity, experienced loss/bereavement.
      Included: eg support from family, community, child has friends. Appropriate attendance at playgroup/nursery.

      Every child and family will be judged on these highly subjective areas whenever any professional is undertaking any sort of assessment. Look at the categories again carefully. Read it slowly…imagine the boxes being ticked or the ratings being given. How will your family fare?
      What happens if your parenting style, vaccination choices, diet, income, family structure or accommodation differ from whatever the state-determined ideal happens to be? Should you pretend to conform (where possible) to preserve your way of life? Or risk ticking a few wrong boxes and find your family the subject of even more intrusive assessment and the appropriate intervention?
      Did you accept that invitation for your child to have the swine flu vaccine? Should you own up to having lost granny and the guinea pig in the same week? Oh, and have you accessed parenting programmes?
      You’ll be pleased to know that according to Triple P Parenting – the worldwide programme recently offered by Glasgow City Council to every parent – ‘Parenting now comes with an instruction manual’.
      To summarise: early intervention is the latest cover story for surveillance, being pushed as the solution to our economic woes. Early intervention programmes identify those deemed at risk of not achieving government-defined outcomes. To do this and to inform future policy requires the collection of huge amounts of data: your data. “