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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 18:19 GMT
Minister seeks to allay Section 28 fears

The debate has been a heated one

Scottish Education Minister Sam Galbraith is renewing his attempt quell parents' fears over the repeal of the law which stops local authoritie from promoting homosexuality.

He is writing to all school boards and head teachers in Scotland to reassure them that safeguards will be put in place "to ensure children continue to receive sensitive and appropriate teaching on personal issues".

The package includes:

  • "Strong and clear" guidance to education authorities, emphasising the importance of having in place the procedure of consulting with parents and responding to their concerns

  • Advance consultation with parents by individual schools. Schools should consult with parents and consider their views when planning sex education.

  • Review of curriculum advice and supporting materials for schools and teachers

  • A working group, including representatives of parents and churches, is being formed to look at the range of material dealing with these issues in the light of the repeal.

Mr Galbraith says the group's proposals will be available to MSPs before a final vote is taken on the bill.

"The group will consult on any changes or new material they propose. We will not bring the repeal of section 2A into force until this work has been concluded," the letter promises.

Sam Galbraith Sam Galbraith: Forming working group
"The Scottish Executive believes that teachers have shown that their professional judgement can be trusted.

"We believe that, with the package of safeguards I have outlined, our children will continue to receive sensitive and appropriate teaching on personal and sexual issues," it adds.

The Tories' home affairs spokesman Phil Gallie MSP said: "I welcome the executive's plans to step back from their proposals for the repeal of Section 28 at present.

Sexual orientation

"However the question still remains as to why existing guidelines - which enable teachers to control and discipline bullies and council and reassure children confused about their sexual orientation - need to be replaced.

"I maintain that it would be wiser to extend the review to cover all aspects of sex education in schools, particularly given the alarming rise in teenage and underage pregnancies over recent years."

The Scottish School Board Association, which is campaigning for Section 28 to be retained, is due to meet on Friday night to discuss its next moves.

Indications are that the executive, which forms the SSBA policy, is likely to support a move to accept promises from the Scottish Executive of new guidelines for teachers.

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Gay law reform debate

See also:
27 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Sam Galbraith's letter in full
20 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Minister's new Section 28 promise
28 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Teachers to get gay guidelines
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Section 28 backers deny U-turn

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