Sex lessons opt-out sought

5th May 2000 at 01:00
TEACHERS should be allowed to opt out of sex education lessons, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

The call comes in response to the Government's sex and relationship education guidance which upholds marriage and family life while making clear that it is not the job of the teacher to promote any sexual orientation.

The ATL said the guidance was the most badly-drafted Department for Education and Employment document it had ever been asked to comment on.

ATL general secretary Peter Smith said the guidance, to be finalised and published later this year, tended towards moralising, meddling and muddling.

A survey of 2,000 teachers by the union and the Institute for Public Policy Research published today found that almost nine out of 10 teachers believed parens should take prime responsibility for their child's personal, social and health education.

Policy officer Sheila Dainton said: "Every time something like teenage pregnancies hit the headlines, teachers get it in the neck. We are prepared to share the responsibility for sex education but we are not going to shoulder the burden."

Mr Smith claimed teachers felt uncomfortable about the guidelines because highlighting the significance of marriage would stigmatise youngsters whose home life differs from that being taught.

He said: "Teachers want to ensure high standards of teaching. A teacher who has to teach a subject they are ill at ease with will not give it the deserved attention. That is why it is essential that teachers be given the option not to teach sex education."

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