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Church queries mixed message

MINISTERS may have erred in launching sex and health education initiatives simultaneously, according to the two leading churches.

The Church of Scotland education committee and the Catholic Education Commission have written to First Minister Henry McLeish about the dovetailing of three documents.

They are the Learning and Teaching Scotland guidelines on sex education, currently out for consultation; the new five to 14 guidelines on health education; and the Healthy Respect sex education project in the Lothians launched last week by health minister Susan Deacon.

The Reverend Jack Laidlaw, Church of Scotland education convener, said: "We are anxious to know how these relate to one another. We are concerned that the Healthy Respect project has been lauched at a time when consultations about sex education in schools are still on-going."

In a letter to national newspapers, the Rev Laidlaw said the Healthy Respect project would be welcome if it informs young people and helps them to deal confidently with relationships."I do not agree with those who fear that sex education encourages premature and risky behaviour," the former Tayside adviser in religious education added.

"Parents can best serve their children by being open and

willing to discuss real issues about sexuality and relationships, as well as explaining beliefs, values and attitudes that matter to them. Parents should know what school sex education aims to achieve and be able to offer teachers their support and backing," he said.

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