Edinburgh parents make official complaint over school survey data fears

Parents worried about a controversial health and wellbeing survey under way in schools across the Capital have lodged an official complaint over data privacy amid fears children's details could fall into the wrong hands.
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The survey, which asks questions about eating behaviours, sleep pattern, relationship with family and experiences of bullying is completed online by pupils from P5 to S6 as part of a Scottish Government exercise to understand young people’s needs. Pupils in S4 and above are also asked about relationships and sexual health.

Parents and pupils both have the opportunity to opt out if they wish.

Pupils from P5 to S6 are being asked to complete the controversial survey.  Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.Pupils from P5 to S6 are being asked to complete the controversial survey.  Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
Pupils from P5 to S6 are being asked to complete the controversial survey. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.
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But one parent has submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) which is responsible for upholding data privacy,

And the parent council at Juniper Green Primary School – where the survey was paused last week after complaints from parents – is seeking urgent reassurances from the council over a range of concerns.

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Edinburgh primary school pauses controversial survey after parents complain

In a social media post to parents it said: "The information provided to children and parents potentially breaches ICO regulations.

"The SCN (Scottish Candidate Number) children put into their survey responses is also their school email address, meaning a rogue council employee with access to the data, or anyone getting the data from a hack or a breach could directly email the children armed with their full psychological profile and family circumstances.

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"We cannot recommend strongly enough that you actively consider whether to opt your child out of completing this survey until we have responses."

Colinton/Fairmilehead Tory councillor Jason Rust said: said there was a lack of information about the survey itself and now serious concerns were being raised about the processing of the information which is obtained.

He said: "I would have thought addressing these concerns in advance of proceeding with the survey would have been wise, especially given the complaint to the ICO.

"It cannot be acceptable to circulate to several organisations the data of thousands of children in Edinburgh which includes their vulnerabilities, their family lifestyle, their activities, their free school meal status, whether they get extra help at school and so on and their personal email address. This is the most comprehensive multi-dimension profile that will have existed. There are fundamental points which need addressed to reassure parents."

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A council spokesperson said: “Taking part in the census is entirely voluntary which is made clear to parents and carers at the outset. The information gathered will give a better picture of how local services for children can be strengthened. Taking part will enable children and young people to have their say, which will influence how these services for them and their families should be delivered in the future.

“The census for Juniper Green is going ahead today (Thursday) and was delayed to allow parents and carers further time to understand the Scottish Government census questions and provide clarity on any questions they may have.

"A child or young person’s confidentiality is most important, and the census has been designed to ensure confidentiality is protected and a full Data Protection Impact Assessment has been carried out to address privacy and data protection concerns.”

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