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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK
MPs in sex education row
grammar school pupils
Pupils should be taught marriage is ideal, say Tories
MPs have become embroiled in a row over how sex education should be taught in schools.

A succession of Conservatives insisted that marriage should be put at the heart of sex education, saying it is the most reliable guidance for raising children.

But ministers said children not from traditional families should not be stigmatised.

Marriage provides a strong foundation for stable relationships and the most reliable framework for raising children

Tory amendment
The government included sex education guidelines in its Learning and Skills Bill, in an attempt to placate opponents of the planned repeal of Section 28.

Section 28 bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

'Peers in touch with people'

Tory spokesman Tim Boswell said: "It is possible to assert values in connection with marriage which are not stigmatic either to persons whose parents are not married or who are in some other relationship."

He said all the government had produced was "some kind of very minimal filter for the activities that schools may sanction in terms of sex education.

It would be wrong to stigmatise children whose parents are not married

Minister Jacqui Smith
Peers had reflected more closely than the government the views of the public, Christian churches and responsible people involved directly with the issue, he said.

Tory former cabinet minister John Gummer - a former leading Anglican turned Roman Catholic - said if the government declined to accept the opposition proposal they were effectively saying they did not believe marriage should be part of sex education in schools.

Gerald Howarth tabled an amendment calling for pupils to be "taught that marriage provides a strong foundation for stable relationships and the most reliable framework for raising children".

'Face reality'

Education Minister Jacqui Smith said the Tory amendment ignored "much of the balance which must be at the centre of guidance on sex education".

She said: "No-one is arguing that marriage isn't the ideal for many. But it would be wrong to stigmatise children whose parents are not married."

The Conservative amendment failed to tackle homophobic bullying, Ms Smith said.

The government was committed to supporting marriage as the basis for family life, but could not accept an amendment that did not accept the realities of society.

The amendment - which had been approved in the Lords - was rejected without a vote.

The Learning and Skills Bill received a rocky passage through the Lords in March, when the government suffered two key defeats on issues not strictly addressed by the bill - Section 28 and grammar school selection.

The bill is mainly aimed at setting up a framework for planning, funding and delivery of post-16 education and training.

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See also:

31 May 00 | UK
The Section 28 battle
26 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Resist Section 28 repeal - Hague
30 Mar 00 | Education
Blunkett fights back on sex teaching
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