Schools fear 'moral police'

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SEX EDUCATION advisers are to protest that new government guidelines turn teachers into the moral police of the classroom, spearheading the drive against single parents.

Health promotion organisations will meet Whitehall education officials this week to complain about the suggestion that teachers should regard the nuclear family as an 'ideal' to which some parents are unable to conform.

They suspect that school sex education lessons could be turned into vehicles for social engineering.

The organisations add that while pupils must learn in science lessons how pregnancy occurs, some will not learn how to avoid it, because parents will be able to withdraw them from sex education classes.

The guidelines have already caused controversy. A legal opinion, leaked to the Independent, challenges their statement that teachers who give contraceptive advice to pupils aged under 16 may be committing a criminal offence. In the light of this, the Department of Health is pressing John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, to take a less moralistic stance.

Sex education groups, including the Health Education Authority, which had until last Friday to deliver their responses to the guidelines, are adding their weight to the campaign.

The Secretary of State issued the draft guidelines in December. He said the family was still 'the cement holding us all together', and that sex education should be taught 'within the context of a moral framework and family values'. The guidelines said: 'Pupils should be helped to appreciate the value of a suitable family life, marriage and the responsibilities of parenthood. Teachers, however, must remember that many children come from backgrounds that do not conform to this ideal.'

A spokeswoman for the Sex Education Forum, representing 30 groups, said teachers were being asked to tell pupils that some types of families were better than others.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said it would look carefully at all the responses. Final guidelines will be issued in April.