Welsh Government launches probe over fears schools have reintroduced Section 28 policies

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The Welsh Government is to investigate reports that two schools in Wales still have sex education policies which ban the promotion of homosexuality as a “matter of urgency.”

Concerns have been raised regarding Tasker VC Milward in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, and St Illtyd’s Catholic High School in Cardiff.

On Monday, the schools were among 45 to be listed in England and Wales by the British Humanist Association (BHA) as either replicating language banning the “promotion” of homosexuality in the classroom or were “unhelpfully vague on the issue.”

Tasker Milward has now apologised for having “an old policy” on its website.

In a statement the school said:

“The Sex Education policy on the Tasker Milward school website was an old policy not in operation and which had not been deleted.

“The school does have a current Strategic Equality Plan, further details of which can be obtained directly from the school.

“The head teacher, Maggie Haynes, apologises for any distress that the failure to remove the old policy from the website may have caused.”

A copy of Tasker Milward’s Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) policy, updated in 2008, states: “Section 28 of the Local Government [Act] does not prevent teachers from addressing issues of homosexuality in the classroom in a neutral and unbiased manner, however, the LA [local authority] shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material which actively promotes homosexuality”.

Introduced in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities and said that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales in 2003 and in Scotland in 2000.

Officials at the UK Department for Education (DfE) launched a separate investigation from the Welsh Government yesterday.

On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Commons Education Committee urged for ministers to update SRE guidelines.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart said: “It looks like an echo from the past. It looks as if schools have just copied that wording from years ago, before Section 28 was revoked, rather than with any deliberate intent.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “All children and young people in Wales should receive inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

“It is extremely important that young people are taught in a way that does not subject them to discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 is very clear on this.

“Our guidance to schools provides definitive advice about the teaching of all aspects of relationships and specific sexual health and well-being issues such as sexual orientation.

“Teachers should deal with sexual orientation honestly, sensitively and in a non-judgemental way. The needs of every learner must be met and schools should encourage open discussion, promote inclusion and challenge inequalities.

“We will be reminding all schools of our guidance and their responsibilities.”

The Archdiocese of Cardiff has released the following statement on behalf of St Illtyd’s Catholic High School:

“When the new term commences in September, Mrs Anne Robinson, director of schools, will ask the school’s new executive headteacher to review the wording of the policy to ensure that it is fully compliant with the law.

“The school was inspected in 2012 and this was not picked up on.”