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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Blunkett fights back on sex teaching
pshe class
The government's opponents want emphasis on marriage
Battle has been resumed in Parliament over the government's proposed new sex education guidelines.

In the continuing political row over Section 28, the clause banning councils from promoting homosexuality, the House of Lords last week inflicted a defeat on the government over the guidelines.

On Thursday in the House of Commons, the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said he would be seeking to throw out the amendment passed by the Lords.

He also said he would try to overturn another amendment, ending the right of parents to hold ballots on admissions to local grammar schools.

The government's "sex and relationship" guidance was drafted in an effort to placate opponents of its intention to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act.


This was in spite of the fact that Section 28 does not apply to schools. Head teachers and governors draw up their own sex education policies and parents can withdraw their children from any parts they do not agree with.

The government proposed instead that its new guidelines - issued for consultation - would by law have to be followed by schools.

They say in part: "... children should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society."

Opponents were not satisfied. The Lords passed an amendment to the Learning and Skills Bill, proposed by the Conservative Baroness Young, which put the emphasis firmly on marriage.

It said children must "learn about the nature of marriage as the key building block of society and its importance for family life and for the bringing up of children."

With the Bill back in the Commons, Mr Blunkett complained that discussion about Section 28 had often "grossly misrepresented" the situation.

'Little disagreement'

"We can't accept on the face of this Bill something that deliberately eliminates and removes efforts in our schools to reduce prejudice and misunderstanding," he said.

"We will remove the Baroness's amendment and we will come back in due course with the way in which we intend to proceed."

Subject to consultation, the guidance, "on which there appears to be very little disagreement", would be issued to schools, Mr Blunkett said.

The other area of difficulty for the government concerns parental ballots on selective secondary education in England.

In the first ballot brought about by campaigners against selection, parents in Ripon voted to keep their grammar school.

The Lords then added a clause to the Learning and Skills Bill which would have ended the ballots process.

Mr Blunkett said: "Let me make it clear that we will overturn the withdrawal of those rights."

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Government pledges to lift Section 28
22 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Lords inflict Section 28 defeat
20 Mar 00 | Scotland
Section 28 protesters back down
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