Ministers head for new split on sex education

5th January 2001 at 00:00
The Educational Institute of Scotland is again seriously at odds with the Roman Catholic Church over revised sex education guidelines and the controversy around the removal of Section 2A.

The union says that advice from Learning and Teaching Scotland to local authorities is "not helpful" to the gay and lesbian community while the Church describes the carefully crafted guidelines as "unacceptable".

In its response to the Executive's consultation document, the EIS says there is a preoccupation with safeguards and a weakening of the anti-discrimination message behind repeal of Section 2A, which outlawed the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

"From the outset it is necessary to give a clear and strong signal about anti-discrimination and diversity rather than one which is as unbalanced as the introductory letter," the institute states.

It picks up a similar point in the guidance for schools and local authorities on consultation with parents. "A strong anti-discrimination message is missing and a very negative, problematic view of homosexuality is inherent in the document," it complains, In sharp contrast, the Catholic Church remains deely concerned at the "liberal" tone of the document. John Oates, a Catholic Education Commission spokesman, said the guidance appeared to encourage the philosophy that sex was all right, so long as it was safe.

"It is not all right. We do not think there should be under-age sex and sex outside marriage and these are included in our own guidelines," Mr Oates said.

There were "important differences" between the Church's own revised guidelines on relationships and sex education for its schools, currently out for consultation, and those of Learning and Teaching Scotland. He believed ministers should recognise the differences and acknowledge them in the circular to local authorities and advice to parents.

Meanwhile, the EIS points out that some of the resource materials in the guidelines are out of date. The HELP publication is dated as is Personal Relationships and Developing Sexuality and Escape Aids, it claims.

The union remains concerned at the lack of training for teachers in personal and social development and the shortage of readily available materials. Performance indicators would be inappropriate for the area, it insists.

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