MINISTERS this week avoided the minefield of introducing a statutory provision into the school curriculum for what would have been the first time in Scotland.
As the forthcoming Ayr by-
election concentrated minds, they came under mounting pressure to put something equally forceful in place of section 2a of the Local Government Act, the Scottish equivalent of Section 28 which bans schools from promoting homosexuality.
A decision is expected to confirm that section 2a will be repealed via the Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill, which would then place public agencies, including schools, under a legally enforceable obligation to promote "stable relationships", neatly obscuring any distinction between homosexual and heterosexual preferences.
The extent of the Executive's desperate need to draw the sting from the issue was underlined by the plan to write directly to parents. Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, wrote last month to heads and school boards announcing a working group to reviw existing materials, chaired by Mike McCabe, director of education in South Ayrshire.
David Whitton, spokesman for Donald Dewar, the First Minister, told The TES Scotland it was expected that Mr Galbraith's letter would be passed on to parents. "Clearly that has not happened, for whatever reason."
Mr Galbraith appeared to dig in his heels early in the week when he said emphatically at an impromptu press conference that "there will be no statutory curriculum guidelines". That was no more than a statement of the obvious - guidelines are advisory and cannot therefore be statutory.
Ministers were "well aware" that introducing statutory provision could set a precedent, Mr Whitton said. Mr Galbraith has already taunted the SNP, saying he hoped they would not be "the first party to go down the English road of a statutory curriculum".
Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman, said the party still believed parents should have a legal right to withdraw children from sex education lessons.