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Sex guidelines to play it safe

CONTENTIOUS sex education packs are to be reviewed 18 months earlier than planned following pressure from MSPs and hardline churchmen.

Tom Wilson, chair of Learning and Teaching Scotland, confirmed this week that a review of the 5-14 guidelines on health education and back-up reading material will begin as soon as possible and not next year as planned.

In a letter to Karen Gillon, convener of the Scottish Parliament's education, culture and sport committee, Professor Wilson admits: "It is my view that there are some sex education resources, including some of those listed in the bibliography in the Guide for Teachers and Managers, that are inappropriate for use with young people at some or all stages of their education."

But Professor Wilson, principal of Glasgow College of Building and Printing, points out that current guidelines for teachers - including consultations with parents - are "proving to be effective in safeguarding against the use of inappropriate materials or teaching approaches".

He also insists some aspects of the controversial materials could be useful to teachers.

The row erupted after ministers and priests objected to some of the packs mentioned in the LTS bibliography, arguing that Scottish Executive safety guidelines on sex education issued two years ago were failing to stop inappropriate material reaching schools.

Learning and Teaching Scotland has never suggested it was a recommended list, only that teachers may want at some stage to check other available materials, many produced commercially. None of the more disputed packs have been used in schools as far as the organisation knows.

But Professor Wilson has now partly sided with critics and offered reassurance to MSPs.

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