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The BBC's John Pienaar reports
"There will also be guidance on how to tackle homophobic bullying"
 real 28k

The BBC's John Pienaar analyses the move
"It may not be enough to placate the government's opponents"
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Stuart Bell
"It was not in the manifesto."
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Glenda Jackson
"Why should homosexuality be excluded in sex education?"
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Friday, 28 January, 2000, 12:00 GMT
Teachers to get gay guidelines

homosexuals Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow Teachers will be urged to preach tolerance towards homosexuals

Ministers have reiterated that schools across England and Wales are being sent new guidelines, urging teachers to instruct pupils about the importance of marriage and family life.

The government has issued the reminder because of concerns expressed by church leaders about plans to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, which bans the promotion of homosexuality.

Ministers are keen to scrap the clause but many parents, backed by religious groups and the Conservative Party, are against it.

Some Labour MPs also oppose it and the BBC's political correspondent, John Pienaar, says it is the fear of a backbench rebellion which has persuaded the government to seek a compromise.

The Department for Education says it is compiling guidance to schools to ensure they tell pupils about the importance of marriage and family life.

This is not new: the proposal was a response to the misgivings about sex education in last year's report on Britain's teenage pregnancy problem. The guidelines are due to be published in the spring.

Broader context

The department said in a statement: "There is no intention for the new guidance to be a vehicle for the deliberate promotion of any sexual orientation.

"The guidance will set sex and relationships education within a broader base of self-esteem, respect and responsiblity."

Union leaders have again complained that the guidelines - and others relating to the national curriculum - are too inflexible.

In response to the department's statement, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Nigel de Gruchy, said the last thing schools needed was more paperwork - the government was only doing this because it was embarrassed.

"Most parents are full of common sense, so are teachers, so are governors," he said.

"It is already the law of the land that sex education in schools has to be approved by the governing body.

"I don't see why we can't rely upon the common sense of teachers and headteachers and governing bodies.

"That allows some local flexibility to take account of different communities and there should be no need for this massive, bureaucratic addition to national guidelines."

Conscience vote

MPs are expected to debate a repeal of Section 28 later in the year.

Labour MP Stuart Bell, among the fiercest critics of the government's decision to repeal Section 28, has been among those calling for a conscience vote.

Section 28 bans the promotion of homosexuality
Mr Bell, a church commissioner, said: "It was not in the manifesto, we did not fight the General Election on repeal of Section 28.

"What we are talking about here is children, their childhood, their education, their life expectancies, and it's wrong to put this burden on them, of their sexual orientation, when they are at school."

But Glenda Jackson, one of Labour's candidates for London mayor, welcomed the government's decision to impose a whip on the vote.

She told the BBC: "This has been party policy, quite apart from government policy, ever since this particularly obnoxious little clause was introduced by the Conservatives in 1988."

Ms Jackson has joined four other London mayoral candidates in a letter to The Times newspaper, calling for a repeal of the legislation.

'Homophobic bullying'

The five, including Labour's Frank Dobson and Ken Livingstone, Tory Steven Norris and the Liberal Democrat's Susan Kramer, said Section 28 damaged the health of gay people.

"Far from protecting young people, Section 28 has helped to foster widespread homophobic bullying in schools," they wrote.

"Because of Section 28, schools currently feel unable to offer appropriate support to gay pupils."

In a move coinciding with the candidates' letter, the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading Aids charity, launched the UK's first anti-homophobia cinema advert.

The campaign, entitled It's Prejudice that's Queer, will screen with the film Double Jeopardy.

"Repealing Section 28 and establishing an equal age of consent are essential if we are to tackle homophobia which is a serious, widespread problem," said the Trust's chief executive, Nick Partridge.

"Section 28 and the unequal age of consent enshrine homophobia as laws that damages the health of gay people physically, mentally and emotionally," he said.

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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Labour to toe line on Section 28
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
27 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Minister seeks to allay Section 28 fears

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