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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 13:49 GMT
Sex guidelines in Section 28 row

pshe lesson Schools will still be able to devise their own policies

The government has issued early details of the new guidance to schools on sex education, in an attempt to head off attacks on its move to repeal Section 28.

The Department for Education in England says there is no intention for the new guidance "to be a vehicle for the deliberate promotion of any sexual orientation".

It states specifically: "Teachers will not be promoting homosexual relations."

The guidelines stress that sex and relationships education must involve children being taught about "the importance and nature of marriage and family life in bringing up children", as was proposed last September.

The department is at pains to point out again that Section 28 of the Local Government Act - banning the promotion of homosexuality - has never applied to individual schools, but to local authorities.

Governors decide

Any school's sex education policy is a matter for its governors.

The department is in the process of consulting on its proposed revision to the existing guidance on sex education, which dates back to 1994. The new guidance will be part of the revised national curriculum in England, being introduced from September.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said: "It is the first time that we have set into a framework that pupils should be taught about the importance of marriage, family life, love and stable relationships in bringing up children.

"The guidance ... will ensure that teachers are in a position to offer information and support to all young people as they develop into adults and address incidents of homophobic bullying."

National framework

The department says the new guidance will clearly state that sex and relationship education should be firmly rooted within the new national framework for personal, social and health education (PSHE).

This is intended to help pupils develop the skills and understanding they need "to live confident, healthy and independent lives".

"It will play an important role, alongside other aspects of the curriculum and school life, to help pupils deal with difficult moral and social questions that arise in their lives and in society," the department says.

"Marriage and the family are the key building blocks of community and society."

The guidance will make the point that sex and relationship education should not be delivered in isolation.

"The objective is to help young people learn to respect themselves and others and by so doing move from adolescence into adulthood with confidence."

Advisory only

But it will remain only guidance - it will not be compulsory for schools to follow it.

It will still be the job of a school's governing body, in consultation with parents, to develop a policy on sex and relationships education, and different schools do have widely differing attitudes to what they want their pupils to know and believe.

So it will still be for governors and headteachers to decide what illustrative material to use, and they are expected to discuss it with parents.

Typically, schools have open evenings at which parents can view sex education videos, for example, and discuss the sort of things their children will be told at different ages.

But "inappropriate images should not be used," the department says.

Bullying problem

The guidance will suggest that the context in which children are taught about sex should be one of self-esteem, respect and responsibility, and that they are arguments for delaying sexual activity altogether.

"It will ensure that teachers are in a position to offer information and support to all young people as they develop into adults and to address incidents of homophobic bullying.

"Pupils have a right to develop without being subject to any physical or verbal abuse about sexual orientation," the department says.

Research published on Monday by the Institute of Education at London University suggests that many teachers have felt inhibited by Section 28 from preventing homophobic abuse and bullying.

Opponents of the government's intention to repeal Section 28 say it does not stop teachers tackling such issues in a sensitive way - but should be retained to stop them promoting gay lifestyles.

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See also:
07 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Peers debate Section 28 repeal
07 Feb 00 |  Education
Anti-gay bullies 'given free rein'
04 Feb 00 |  Education
Schools will get their own Section 28

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