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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 16:20 GMT
Minister: Section 28 no 'effect on schools'
Classroom
Section 28 debate has "insulted" schools, say head teachers
Section 28 does not apply to schools, an education minister has confirmed.

Education Minister Jacqui Smith, says that the measure which bans the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities, has no "direct effect on schools".



Section 28 does not apply, and never has applied, to the activities of individual schools in England.

Department for Education statement
And further clarifying Section 28's place in the debate over sex education, a Department for Education spokesman says: "Section 28 does not apply, and never has applied, to the activities of individual schools in England. It applies only to the activities of local authorities."

"But it is clear that it has caused much confusion and many teachers believe that it does apply to schools."

However the government intends to press ahead with its attempts to repeal Section 28 as the legislation is still seen to be "discriminatory".

The Department for Education statement follows an attack by head teachers' leader David Hart on the "totally unreal" debate over Section 28 - in which both opponents and defenders of the measure have spoken as though it affected how sex education is taught in schools.


Jacqui Smith
Smith: Still wants to see Section 28 removed
"The debate has been totally unreal and assumes powers for local authorities that they simply don't have," says Mr Hart, who emphasised that head teachers and school governors decide how sex education is taught in a school.

"I've been talking to many head teachers about this and they throw their hands up in horror at what is being said. It's insulting to heads, governors and parents that the House of Lords thinks it has the right to say how schools teach sex education," said Mr Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.



This has always been a red-herring.

National Union of Teachers
"This has always been a red-herring and the reality has so far not dawned on people that this does not apply to teachers. But it has still created an atmosphere of discrimination and anxiety," said a spokesperson for the National Union of Teachers.

After the House of Lords rejected the government's latest attempt to repeal the measure, Mr Hart supported the statement from the education spokesman for local authorities, Graham Lane, who last week described the Section 28 debate as a "charade".


David Hart
Hart: Much of debate on Section 28 misinformed
However the Shadow Education Secretary Theresa May says that her party's defence of Section 28 was of relevance - because schools could be "indirectly" affected by the measure in terms of advice and materials given by local authorities.

The 1988 legislation, which pre-dates the setting of a national curriculum and the current rules for teaching sex education, has never been used - and the Department for Education has expressed doubts as to whether it ever could have been used against schools.

Head teachers and boards of governors, who are exempt from the requirements of Section 28, determine sex education policy, after consultation with parents - with the local authority having no rights over what is taught.

Parents also have an individual right of veto - with the specific right to withdraw their children from any sex education lessons of which they disapprove.

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Education
Section 28 debate a 'charade'
24 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Ministers mull Section 28 defeat
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