No reason to repeal Section 28

11th February 2000 at 00:00
THE REPORT on what Section 28 has meant for teachers (Friday magazine, February 4) prompted three thoughts.

First, the legislation applies to the actions of teachers in schools where the employer is the local education authority. Second, a teacher's role is not one of counselling pupils about their sexuality, and third, that the reasons stated by the Government to repeal Section 28 do not actually justify repeal.

In areas of legislation relating to employment and health and safety, an employer can be held to be vicariously responsible for the actions of individual employees. In a similar way, I would expect that an LEA could be held responsible for the actions in respect of Section 28 of staff in their schools. An education authority subject to such sanctions is likely subsequently to direct their employees' actions.

In their pastoral role, teachers are expected to support and advise pupils on matters that affect theirprogress and life in the school. Not all teachers are trained as counsellors, and, in any case, the confidential and non-directive nature of counselling does not always sit easily with a situation where a teacher will wish to take action, say, to stop bullying.

A pupil experiencing difficulties because of their sexuality is entitled to exactly the same support from a teacher as any other pupil. The need for practical, sympathetic support is one a teacher might reasonably be expected to meet; to provide counselling can conflict with this.

Your report clearly showed that teachers are not prevented by Section 28 from responding to bullying and other difficulties as a result of pupils' sexuality. And if teachers should not be expected to act as counsellors, what remains of the Government's stated reasons for seeking repeal of Section 28? Not very much.

Joseph Sowerby

220 Rush Green Road

Romford, Essex

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