Sex Lessons Outcry: Governors' freedom to be extended in autumn: Governing bodies decide what pupils learn

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The Independent Online
PRIMARY SCHOOL governors have complete freedom to decide what must be covered in sex education lessons, John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday.

In theory, Mr Patten has power to intervene, but in practice he is unlikely to do so. All schools must provide sex education. This autumn, primary school governors will receive even more power enabling them to decide whether and when to provide sex education.

Ministers are keen to encourage sex education as part of their campaign to restore traditional moral values but are sensitive to the concerns of their own supporters about young children receiving inappropriate teaching.

The new legislation means that secondary schools will be required to provide sex education, including topics on HIV and Aids, but parents will have a new right to withdraw their children from the lessons.

The Government agreed to change the law after members of the House of Lords protested that teaching guidelines on Aids for 11-year-olds contained 'deviant sexual practices'.

A draft circular from the Government made clear that sex education must 'have regard to moral considerations and the value of family life'. Mr Patten has emphasised lessons should concentrate on values rather than the mechanics of sex. Next month's circular will offer some ideas about how this might be done.

Highfield did not behave unusually in inviting an outsider to talk about a subject many teachers find embarrassing. Mr Patten said teacher training in sex education must be improved.

The National Union of Teachers said a nurse might be the appropriate person to help with sex education in a school. The Royal College of Nursing said Mrs Brady was 'very well qualified' but that nationally the training for school nurses was patchy.