The Scottish Government is revising its guidance to schools on the conduct of ‘relationships, sexual health and parenthood education’ The current guidance was issued to schools on 22 March 2001: Conduct of Sex Education in Scottish Schools, known as Circular 2/2001. Since this Circular was written, Curriculum for Excellence has been introduced in Scottish schools and the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in June 2013 (and may reach Royal Assent in early 2014). Revised guidance is expected to be in place by early 2014.
This circular has been discussed with members of the Catholic Education Commission which includes head teachers of primary and secondary schools, teachers of religious education, school chaplains and parents. A response has been submitted by SCES on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.
In broad terms we are comfortable with the intention to revise this circular which will be important in ensuring that schools and local authorities are clear in terms of expectations that Catholic schools will follow Church guidance in this area of the curriculum. For the record, we highlight the fact that in 1999 Church authorities issued guidance on this subject for Catholic schools to follow – well ahead of the publication of the original Circular 2/2001. Since then significant teaching programmes have been provided in the form of Called to Love (secondary) and (for primary schools) God’s Loving Plan (designed to replace Education for Love and due for publication early 2014).
In reference specifically to provision in denominational schools, we have urged the Scottish Government to reflect in this Circular the positive endorsement of Catholic schools expressed by various Ministers in recent years. In particular we strongly recommended moving away from the terms used in paragraphs 19 & 20 which reflect the grudging tolerance of Catholic schools shown by the Scottish Executive when the original circular was published in 2001. We have asked the Scottish Government to incorporate into the revised circular the positive endorsements of Catholic schools, given by various Ministers before and during different stages of consultation on the proposed Marriage and Civil Partnerships legislation.
It should be clear from our previous submissions on this issue that, in Scotland’s Catholic schools, the vision of Marriage which is promoted is that enshrined in the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church: the faithful, lifelong, loving union of a man and a woman, open to God’s gift of new life. Teachers will always cherish the lives of all children and young people and will not make judgements on young people and their families whether or not their lives reflect this teaching.
For further details on this issue, contact SCES.