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Censors take love off stage

Love scenes between pupils in school plays should stop at a peck on the cheek to protect youngsters from abuse, according to new guidelines.

Drama teachers should also consider whether including strong language in lessons and productions is in the best interest of pupils.

A review of drama teaching was one of the key recommendations from the 2004 Clywch inquiry into allegations of child abuse at Rhydfelen secondary, in south Wales, where former drama teacher John Owen used his subject as a "vehicle for improper activity with children".

The guidelines state: "Drama teachers must cut or adapt plays if they have to, in order to protect children and young people... Drama teachers should be able to provide a proper justification for what they do, based on the best interests of the learner, and not rely on arguments about the artistic integrity of the text."

This means that plays such as Romeo and Juliet, or Equus, by Peter Shaffer, could be cut for school use, because they include kissing or sexual scenes.

All four qualifications, curriculum and assessment authorities in the UK were consulted when the guidelines were drawn up. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will now consider whether to adopt the guidelines in England.

Margaret Higgins, of the National Association for the Teaching of Drama, said: "You can't just cut out scenes like the kiss in Romeo and Juliet. It is a crucial moment. If this isn't fit subject matter for children, perhaps they should put on EastEnders after the watershed."

The guidelines also tell teachers how they should tackle love scenes, offensive language, and taking photographs or video recordings of children.

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