Sex education to have moral tone: Education guidelines emphasise traditional family values. Judith Judd reports

SCHOOLS should concentrate on moral and family values rather than the mechanics of sex, according to new guidelines issued yesterday.

The draft, which gives parents the right to withdraw children from sex education lessons and removes HIV and Aids from national curriculum lessons, is part of the Government's campaign to promote traditional moral values.

Asked whether children should be taught that it was better for parents to be married, that heterosexality was better than homosexuality, and that fidelity was better than promiscuity, Mr Patten replied: 'Yes. We should aspire to the ideal that if you get married you stay married.'

Teachers, however, needed to be sensitive to their pupils' backgrounds, he said.

Mr Patten's list of moral values for schools to teach included self-reliance, proper regard for authority, acceptance of responsibility, unselfishness, dignity, sensitivity towards others, loyalty and the capacity to look to the future.

At present each governing body decides its school's sex education policy. Under the draft guidelines, primary school governors will be able to decide if and when pupils are taught sex education. All secondary pupils must receive sex education but governors may decide whether it is taught in separate lessons, as part of personal education or in science lessons.

'Moral values lie at the heart of education,' Mr Patten said.

'Sex education cannot be exempt from this. It must deal not only with facts about the mechanics of reproduction - important though these are - but also with the values that pupils will need to develop.'

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'Politicians are the last people to lecture people on morality. They can't be amoral about their social policy and also preach high standards in family values. Unemployment breaks up more families than sexual misconduct.'

He said teachers whose marriages had broken up risked being accused of hypocrisy if they taught family values.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he was saddened by the introduction of the parental right to withdraw students. 'All recent studies have shown that where there is good sex education, young people start to be sexually active at a later stage.'