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Sources and safeguards to keep teachers on track

There is a plethora of advice for schools and parents about how sex education should best be handled, from A Curriculum Framework for Children 3 to 5 to the Higher Still course in religious, moral and philosophical studies.

All sources emphasise the moral and health context. Even the controversial Sexual Health and Relationships Education (Share) pack for S2-S4, which has been invoked by those who condemn what they see as "value-free" sex education, stresses the importance of "healthy and positive sexual relationships", alongside development of the skills necessary for young people to make choices.

The preface to Learning and Teaching Scotland's summary of national advice makes it clear that "sex education should be presented in a context that values stable relationships, healthy living and personal responsibility, and firmly sets sex education within the wider context of health education, religious and moral education and personal and social development".

The Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 empowers ministers to issue guidance on the conduct of sex education in schools and requires education authorities to comply with it - the only area of the curriculum to be so circumscribed.

The guidance, which was duly issued following the section 2A uproar, also insists that schools consult parents when they are developing or reviewing their programmes, and that pupils should be given a say.

Schools are expected to have clear procedures for allowing parents to raise concerns. Parents have a right to withdraw children from sex education lessons, and schools must make alternative arrangements for them.

Further guidance to parents and carers sets out a clear expectation that sex education in schools - "no matter the stage" - should allow pupils to consider:

* Respect and caring for self and others.

* Respect for individual differences.

* Ways to keep safe.

* Ways to express and deal with feelings and emotions.

* Positive and supportive relationships.

The early years curriculum, the guidance continues, should emphasise:

* Awareness of the way bodies grow and change.

* Uniqueness of their body.

* Where living things come from.

* Family and other special people who care for them.

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