A RECENT BLOG and posting on Facebook could be a sign of things to come as the ‘named person’ legislation kicks in. The blog, written by an irate mother of a 13-year-old in Aberdeen, was complaining about a ‘little chat’ her daughter had had with a ‘nurse’ (not the usual school nurse). The questions the 13-year-old was asked included, ‘Have you started your menstrual period?’, ‘Do you feel loved and cared for?’ and ‘Do you feel safe and secure in your home?’
The questions continued, asking about the relationship the child had with the mother – the child was now starting to feel uncomfortable, the mother reports, and when she found out about it she was ‘absolutely RAGING’.
The interview was part of the named person project, a system whereby every child in Scotland will be given a state-named guardian to oversee their safety and wellbeing – an initiative that could transform the relationships between schools and parents.
A key problem with the named person set up is that it now means that teachers will be responsible (and trained to be responsible) for the ‘wellbeing’ of every child. This may sound fair enough but the breadth and scope of what wellbeing actually means suggests that the role of parent and teacher is being confused. So for example, everything from how respected a child is by their carers to how much responsibility they are given by them could become a matter of concern and intervention.
Especially given the emphasis placed on being aware of ‘risks’ and the potential anxiety about not flagging up a problem early enough, means that the likely trend is for more and more children to be investigated and put on a children’s plan.
When defending the named person legislation Nicola Sturgeon and others argue that this is about protecting the most vulnerable children, but this is disingenuous. This is a universal service that is trying to prevent problems occurring in the future and is doing so by massively increasing the basis upon which teachers concerns and suspicions are triggered into action.
Consequently, all sorts of emotional or personal issues that would previously have been seen as an aspect of growing up – or that is a matter for the family – will become a legally enforced matter for the named person: for teachers.
The teachers unions have said little about this so far, a surprising state of affairs given the seriousness of this new development and the pressures that will be placed on senior teachers in particular to take on this new role.
Worryingly, as parents find out about the named person it is likely that some at least will begin to treat teachers with suspicion and fear, nervous about sharing personal information with them or discussing difficulties their children are having at home.
Dr Stuart Waiton is a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University. This article first appeared in the Times Educational Supplement Scotland.
The ‘No to a named person’ (NO2NP) campaigners will be petitioning on the streets around Caird Hall in Dundee from 10am on Saturday 30th May.