Guidance preaches love and marriage

11th February 2000 at 00:00
New advice to teachers calls for neutrality on the issue of sexual orientation but promotes marriage and family life, write Clare Dean and Julie Henry.

MARRIAGE and family life will be at the heart of sex education in schools, the Government has announced.

A new national framework for personal, social and health education makes it clear that it is not the job of teachers to promote a particular sexual orientation.

It is the first time that the Government has formally laid down that pupils should be taught about the importance of marriage, family life, love and stable relationships in bringing up children.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said: "Marriage and the family are the key building blocks of community and society."

The guidance stresses that the duty to develop a policy on sex and relationship education rests with governors in consultation with parents.

Education Secretary David Blunkett added: "The guidance will also make it clear that it is not the job of teachers to promote a particular sexual orientation.

"It will ensure that teachers are in a position to offer information and support to all young people as they develop into adults and address incidents of homophobic bullying."

The guidance was announced as the House of Lords threw out government plans to repeal Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools by councils.

Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholics have made their pro-Section 28 stance clear and believe sex education should emphasise the importance of traditional marriage.

Thy say that schools should teach pupils that human sexuality is a gift from God. Homosexuality was not mentioned in advice they issued last week.

Tory-controlled Kent County Council has vowed to instruct its teachers not to "intentionally promote homosexuality" whether the clause is scrapped or not.

John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association general secretary, said: "Sex education is a difficult and sensitive subject to teach and is best left to experienced teachers to carry out policies agreed by the school governing body."

The National Secular Society condemned the churches' position as "dangerous and ridiculous".

Keith Porteous Wood, the society's general secretary, said: "There will be unease among teachers required to teach children 'rules' that are completely out of step with the life they are experiencing."

He said the churches needed to think seriously about youngsters involved in one-night stands.

"It is easy for the middle-aged to forget the imperative of sexual urges for teenagers.

"Given these are going to result in sexual activity outside marriage, whether the churches like it or not, we need, as well as pointing out the dangers, to give practical suggestions," he said.

Guidance on sex education, which said school governors should set their own "appropriate and responsible" sex education policy, was introduced in 1987.

The 1993 Act made sex education in secondary schools a legal requirement. A circular in 1994 said governors must ensure that sex education was offered to all pupils and covered Aids and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

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