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Sex and the younger teacher

t is rarely we might suggest that pupils know best and that teachers do best if they take a back seat. But, after many years of agonising over sex education, a consensus appears to be emerging that this may be the most productive way to tackle it, as our feature in Scotland Plus makes clear.

Or to put it another way, pupils must be centrally involved in decisions about how sexual and relationships education (SRE, as we must now call it) should be taught.

It is almost inevitable that controversy and anxiety will be aroused.

Unlike other aspects of the curriculum, sex and relationships education touches on another key relationship essential to effective learning - that between pupil and teacher. The approach taken by Currie High appears to strike a sensible balance in terms of what each contributes. As with many aspects of schooling but with this one in particular, the pupils'

perspective requires respect.

That is particularly important for SRE:it is difficult to conceive of any other area of school life so fraught with potential problems and pitfalls - even without any religious dimension. Torrid media headlines do not help and, indeed, it was salutary to be reminded by Strathclyde University's Joan Forrest and Currie High's Harriet Martin that SRE is in a healthier state than those headlines occasionally suggest, variable though the quality might be.

Of course, we cannot assume unremitting progress. Sex education can be ineffective and much of it has been. It often points up the huge gaps between teachers and pupils, and not just the age one. Perhaps now that younger blood is about to enter the profession, that gap will become one factor less to worry about.

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