Cardinal simply got it wrong

28th January 2005 at 00:00
We trust that Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics, is a happier man today. The Executive's policy statement on sexual health (page 3) contains no surprises as far as sex education is concerned - and none of the more lurid misgivings conjured up by Cardinal O'Brien in his fevered newspaper article in September. No doubt he will claim that, without his intervention, some of his prophecies would have come to pass. But the First Minister said at the time, and the new strategy confirms it, that the Cardinal was simply wrong: there is to be no sexual content in the teaching of pre-school youngsters, the morning-after pill will not be available through schools and Catholic schools will provide sex education as they currently do in line with the church's imperatives.

This was, in fact, much ado about nothing. The Executive's policy reinforces the existing 5-14 guidelines and does not depart in any way from the current legislative and other safeguards on sex education, which make it one of the most heavily fortified and parentally-friendly areas of the curriculum. Neither is it "value-free", as the Cardinal has alleged.

Ironically, the Executive's statement came in the same week as a highly critical report from the inspectorate in England slating the poor quality of sex education in many schools. That should be the real debate.

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