Letter: Political confusion stifles sex education debate

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The Independent Online
Sir: We are writing to support the provision of appropriate sex education in schools and to express our extreme concern about amendments to the Education Bill to be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow. These amendments aim to curtail and further complicate the process by which schools provide pupils with essential information and support in the area of personal development and sex education.

Again our energies are directed towards the question of whether schools should be allowed to teach this important subject, and away from the vital issue of how this teaching may be done most effectively. Despite recent policy and press initiatives which suggest that sex education is a government priority, school sex education has never been in a worse situation. Recent surveys show that at least 50 local authority advisory posts will be lost immediately, with many to follow, and that many schools are still unable to provide students with any education in this area.

It is time we took politics out of the sex education debate and considered the subject in practical educational terms - how can we support teachers, involve parents and meet the needs of young people? At present we are failing in all of these areas and have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe to prove it.

Yours sincerely

MARTIN PENDERGAST, Convener, Catholic Aids Link; CHRISTOPHER HUGHES SMITH, the general secretary of the Division of Education and Youth of the Methodist Church; ROGER SINGLETON, senior director, Barnardos; ANNE WEYMAN, director of information and public affairs, National Children's Bureau; MARGARET JONES, general secretary, Brook Advisory Centres; DOREEN MASSEY, director, Family Planning Association; LES RUDD, director, National Aids Trust.

London, EC1