Engage for education, or sign up for surveillance?

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, we 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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