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Sunday, 30 January, 2000, 10:18 GMT
Gay law change defended

Gay groups have long opposed Section 28

Scrapping the controversial Section 28 will not lead to the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle in schools, Education Secretary David Blunkett has insisted.

David Blunkett Blunkett: Teachers 'won't promote gay lifestyle'
His defence of the proposed change comes amid reports that the Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead says there is no evidence the legislation prevents teachers from dealing with gay issues.

Critics of Section 28 claim it prevents teachers from tackling instances of homophobic bullying.

But supporters of Clause 28, including some prominent religious leaders, fear its repeal could lead to the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The education secretary said on Sunday he still wants teachers to emphasise the importance of marriage.

The fact that they are not allowed to promote homosexuality does not prevent them from delivering effective teaching
Chris Woodhead
"All the evidence is that marriage and stable relationships is the best context to bring up children. They need stability, they need security," he said.

Mr Blunkett told GMTV's Sunday programme: "The clause makes a wrong presumption in that there was a tendency to promote a particular sexuality or orientation.

"We are not talking about that. The guidance will indicate that it isn't the job of teachers or youth workers to promote, as though it is a cause, a particular form of orientation.

"So they will not be promoting homosexuality, they will not be promoting gay relationships, they will be helping young people to discover their sexuality, to be able to cope with as they move from adolescence into adulthood in a sensible and sensitive way."

Chris Woodhead Woodhead: Teachers can deal with bullies
But Mr Blunkett said it would be a priority to encourage children to show respect for others.

"Part of the development of our citizenship programme will be of course a respect for others and their differences and that is absolutely crucial in avoiding homophobic bullying," he said.

But Chris Woodhead was reported on Sunday as saying there was no evidence that Clause 28 prevented teachers from dealing with gay issues.

"My own experience is that there is no evidence that Clause 28 has had a negative influence on teachers' ability to deal with homophobic bullying."

Section 28 bans the promotion of homosexuality
He told the Sunday Telegraph:"No headteacher has raised with me, in all the many school visits I have made, Clause 28 as a cause of concern."

Mr Woodhead would not reveal his personal position on the proposal to repeal Section 28, because of its political nature, but said he did not believe the current framework hindered teachers in their work.

Inspections across the country had not suggested that children were not getting appropriate information or help about homosexuality.

"I don't see that teachers are constrained in dealing with these issues. The fact that they are not allowed to promote homosexuality does not prevent them from delivering effective teaching on these issues."

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Gay law reform debate

See also:
25 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Section 28 row intensifies
25 Jan 00 |  UK
The Section 28 battle
26 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Resist Section 28 repeal - Hague

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