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Pre-5s spared the blushes

"No sex please, we're nurseries" was the message from leading pre-school figures when contacted this week by The TES Scotland.

As the row between the Roman Catholic Church and the Scottish Executive over the forthcoming sexual health strategy shows no signs of dying down, responses from Easterhouse to Easter Ross and beyond indicate that teachers are quite content with present approaches and have no plans to introduce what one called "the mechanics of procreation".

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has alleged that there are plans afoot to introduce "graphic sexual instruction" to pre-school children, which would amount to "state-sponsored sexual abuse of minors". Ministers deny that such plans are in the pipeline.

In the past week the Catholic press office and the Church figure who liaises with MSPs have further stirred the pot. John Deighan, the Church's parliamentary officer, described material for the early years in the Living and Growing series as "pornographic". There was no place in the classroom at these stages for discussion of the clitoris or same-sex couples, Mr Deighan averred.

Many councils would agree. In Fife, teaching the under-fives has nothing to do with the mechanics of sex, Meg Liston, the council's quality improvement officer in education, says.

Ms Liston said: "Before we get to teaching elements of what is publicly perceived as sex education at upper primary and secondary levels, we lay down some fundamental building blocks which are more geared towards personal and social development."

The focus in the pre-school years was on making friends, becoming independent, caring for themselves, personal safety, personal hygiene, expressing feelings and being aware of others' feelings.

A spokesperson for Highland Council said there is no sex education in pre-school, sex education is not an issue and there are no plans to introduce it in the near future.

Scottish Borders has no specific sex education programme in pre-school. A spokesperson said the issue is addressed in the context of social and emotional development and dealt with in an age-related manner if a child asks questions.

Aileen Scullion, headteacher of Buchlyvie nursery school in Easterhouse in Glasgow, said the curriculum is based on a local authority health promotion pack and the national curricular framework guidelines for 3-5s.

The emphasis is on relationships, personal safety, hygiene and diet. If children ask questions about sex, the parents are involved.

Norma Watson, headteacher of Kirkhill nursery in Broxburn, West Lothian, said that sex education was a matter for primary schools and there was "nothing specific for pre-five children".

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