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Sex education promotes abstinence

New sex education teaching materials will be in use in Catholic schools across Scotland later this session.

"Called to Love", which promotes the value of abstinence, was piloted in Catholic secondaries in Lothian and in the west of Scotland last year, and it will be published later this year for use in all Catholic secondaries in Scotland.

The church sees its approach as a deliberate riposte to the official sexual health and education strategy which Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said this week had "demonstrably failed".

In a letter to Shona Robison, Minister for Public Health, he expressed "deep disappointment" at the strategy's "intentional absence of any moral framework". He urged the Government to "set sexual activity within a moral context" and provide young people with "the negotiating skills to resist peer pressure" instead of "trumpeting the increased provision of sexual health clinics and services", which he described as "a measure of failure not success".

Ironically, the Catholic Church's project was highlighted as a success in the latest report on Scotland's sexual health strategy, "Respect and Responsibility", which was published last week.

Other projects in the report included chlamydia screening for pupils aged 15 and over in Dumfries and Galloway; teachers and parents learning to talk about sex more openly in Fife; and a pilot sexual health clinic for young people in Tayside.

The report acknowledged that, despite the strategy, the rate of sexually transmitted infections has got worse. Incidences of chlamydia increased by 4 per cent from 2005-06. In 2006, there were 246 recorded cases of infectious syphilis - the highest since 1952.

But the authors argued that it was too soon to judge whether the strategy was working. The report said: "Significant change is a long-term process and we are at the very early stages."

The main concerns highlighted were staff, suitable premises and money to mainstream services. Summing up, the report said there had been "considerable progress", with some services "completely transformed".

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