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Scotland on Sunday
Schools told to give pupils gay sex advice
Last updated: 20-May-06 00:50 BST
OFFICIAL guidance on how to teach Scottish schoolchildren about gay sex is being issued for the first time since the abolition of laws which banned "promoting" homosexuality in schools.
Teachers will be told they can discuss issues including safe gay sex and where to get advice on homosexual relationships, in a move which has already set religious groups and health professionals at loggerheads.
Senior health officials have told Scotland on Sunday the current sex education guidelines need to be expanded because they are "heterosexist".
But the move has been condemned by the Catholic Church in Scotland as "appalling, outrageous and utterly unnecessary".
The guidelines come six years after the massive row over 'Section 2A', which - after months of bitter argument - saw the abolition of laws that effectively prevented teachers discussing gay sex education.
Health officials have now admitted that sex education guidelines written after the 2000 repeal of Section 2A - the Scottish version of the law known as Section 28 south of the Border - did not include homosexuality, because of the political sensitivity over the issue at the time.
Scotland on Sunday can now reveal that the Sexual Health and Relationships Education (SHARE) sex education programme is being amended to include gay sex.
From the new academic year this August, teachers will be told it is appropriate to discuss:
• Protection from sexually transmitted diseases for lesbians and gay men, including information on female condoms for lesbians, and ensuring condoms used by men and women have quality kitemarks;
• How to access sexual health services for homosexuals;
• Same-sex crushes and the emotional side of homosexual relationships;
• The law on consent for homosexuals;
• Contacts for support groups and websites.
Shirley Fraser, health improvement programme manager for Health Scotland, said:
"Teachers felt they didn't know what to say about same-sex relationships. They felt uncomfortable and wanted to be appropriate without being offensive.
"SHARE did not cover diversity issues such as same-sex relationships, so rather than make it heterosexist it will be reflective of the population.
"The material was written round about the time of the repeal of Section 2A, which for some people might have been going too far at that point to address the diversity issue. We now have a national strategy that says we need to be inclusive. Teachers say these issues come up in the classroom and we have responded to that.
"We realise that there has been a change in culture and attitudes and it is now more inclusive."
Eleanor Coner, information officer for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, welcomed the new guidance.
She said: "If we don't give young people the right information, they will just get the wrong information. They will go to the internet or to their friends. It is far better that they are given the proper information than none at all."
Susan Macdonald, chief executive of Phace Scotland, a health promotion group for gays and lesbians, said: "After the repeal of Section 2A, a lot of people in Scotland were very nervous about anything that could be seen to come under that legislation and I think it has taken quite a long time for people to get less nervous and be more inclusive. It has taken a long time for things to change. I am really pleased to see SHARE expanding to address these issues."
But critics are furious about the changes. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "Before SHARE is updated, we should be seeing results in terms of a reduction in teenage conceptions, sexually transmitted infections and abortions. All the indications are that these have actually got worse.
"To quite graphically equip children with information about same-sex relationships is appalling, outrageous and utterly unnecessary. Where was it decreed that every aspect of human sexuality has to be addressed in the school curriculum?"
The Scottish Executive's original proposals to abolish the controversial Section 2A, which banned the "promotion of homosexuality" provoked a high-profile campaign against the Executive and plunged Scotland's fledgling devolution into crisis.
The Keep the Clause campaign, headed by church-going tycoon Brian Souter, organised its own referendum on the issue, polling over a million votes, with 85% being opposed to the changes. Jack Irvine, who organised Keep the Clause, said: "It appears they're reneging on their promise not to promote gay sex in schools. With an election around the corner, this can hardly be the time to rub it in the face of the electorate.
"They pledged at the time that they would consult with parents over any changes to sex education.
"I would question whether they have done that, and that lessons would include the value of marriage. I should also point out that in the referendum we ran against the plans, more people voted against a change than voted for Labour in the Holyrood elections."
Dr Alastair Noble, education officer for Christian charity Care for Scotland, said: "If the SHARE materials are to have an increased emphasis on homosexuality we would want to see them in advance of circulation to evaluate them, because any material of this nature would have to be age-appropriate and other groups would also take that view.
"We would be concerned if SHARE's material showed any significant departure from the current advice which underlines the need for sex education to emphasise the importance of stable family life and the importance of marriage. There's a fine line between providing appropriate information and promoting homosexuality in a way that encourages experimentation."
Gay & Lesbian issues
This article: http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=754672006
Last updated: 20-May-06 00:50 BST