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Local Government

6th Report 2000

Stage 1 Report on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill

  
    
SP Paper 89

Session 1 (2000)

 

EDUCATION CULTURE AND SPORT COMMITTEE

Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill

Report to the Local Government Committee

Introduction

  1. The Education Culture and Sport Committee has, at Stage 1 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill, considered part 4 of the Bill concerning changes in the law about teaching and welfare of children. The Committee makes the following report to the Local Government Committee as lead committee.
  2. The Committee’s views have been informed by the evidence heard on 15th March from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, the Scottish School Board Association and the Educational Institute of Scotland. We have also received a report from ChildLine summarising the views expressed by young people participating in their recent conference.
  3. Part 4 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill

  4. None of the witnesses we heard were opposed to repeal of section 2A. The SPTC and the EIS straightforwardly oppose the section on the grounds that it is discriminatory. Both also stressed that the clause does not contribute to the protection of children which is adequately safeguarded by existing guidance and by the professionalism of teachers, schools and authorities.
  5. Given the extensive media coverage of the Scottish School Board Association’s views on this, the Committee was reassured to be told very clearly that the SSBA does not oppose repeal. Their President David Hutchison said to us that:
  6. "I want to make it clear that we are not arguing for section 2A to stay. We are arguing for the Government to make clear to parents what it intends to put in its place, and then to ask parents whether they agree with that, through a consultation process." (OR 719)

    The SSBA also agreed that the section as it stands is discriminatory (OR 722) and that "If teachers feel inhibited by that legislation, that is a real concern, as it means that certain pupils may not be getting the counselling that they need." (OR 721). The EIS indicated to us that, although the section has not been an issue for most teachers, "Some of our members have indicated that they have been reluctant to deal with specific questions about homosexuality". The Committee agrees with the EIS view that "The situation is unacceptable, even if there is only one child to whom we cannot give good and adequate advice" (OR 731).

  7. The Committee explored with witnesses why section 2A was being presented as such a major cause of concern to parents. We were struck by the contrasting approaches between different organisations. The SPTC concluded that repeal of the clause was the right way forward and wrote to their members, setting out their reasons for supporting repeal but also taking the opportunity to address and explain some of the misinformation circulating about this issue. The response to this from their members was "overwhelmingly welcoming".
  8. The SSBA has placed great emphasis on consultation with their members and issued a survey to school boards. Of those boards that responded, 12% supported repeal, 40% supported retaining the section until agreed guidelines were in place and 46% opposed repeal. We recognise that there is concern among parents and we are supportive in principle of proper and appropriate consultation with parents. However, the Committee had two concerns about this survey. First, in contrast with the SPTC approach, boards were only sent the legislation and the guidelines, with no attempt to put them in context or to address the misinformation which has been clouding the issues in this debate. Second, despite what we are told are high levels of concern, less than a third of boards in Scotland replied to the survey. Of those that did reply, the SSBA were not able to tell us how far their views reflected the wider views of parents in the school as opposed to the half dozen represented on the board. This contrasts with the experience reported by Margaret Nicol of the EIS where, in a school of 1800 children, only one letter was received from a parent, and that supported repeal. She commented that, "That is the genuine level of concern among those who have had a chance to have a reasoned debate about the section." (OR 732).
  9. We nevertheless agree with SSBA that it is important for parents who are concerned to be reassured. We are supportive of the view expressed by both SPTC and EIS that the primary means for reassurance is through information about what is actually happening in their child’s school. Judith Gillespie suggested that, "The way forward is for a much more vigorous campaign to explain to parents the actual situation in schools" and noted that, "It is the experience of every survey of parents on any issue that, when they are challenged, they always say that everything is all right with their teachers and in their schools….the problems exist elsewhere, but would never happen in their classroom." (OR 710).
  10. We also sought views about the extent to which the Government’s new section 26 offered reassurance and found that it was generally welcomed. The SSBA initially suggested that they would prefer to see "traditional family values" as the focus of sex education teaching. On further questioning David Hutchison said that, "A happy loving home is the best environment for any child. To try to define one as better or worse than another is not in my remit." (OR 726)
  11. There were differing views on how crucial the new guidelines were. SPTC felt that reassurance would not be provided at the general and national but at the specific and local level whereas SSBA want repeal to depend on the existence of agreed alternative guidelines. All the witnesses recognised, however, that a framework of sensible national guidelines provided the basis to address public concern about this issue and permit schools to concentrate on involving parents at local level.
  12. We noted the suggestion by SPTC – which was also welcomed by the EIS - that section 12 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Bill, currently being considered by this Committee, provides a further model for reassuring parents without placing undue prescription on schools and authorities. The section provides that Scottish Ministers may issue guidance to education authorities in relation to certain functions and requires authorities to have regard to that guidance.
  13. As the Committee has found on other occasions, there was a real danger of this debate being conducted without reference to those most affected, the young people themselves. We were glad to have the opportunity to receive feedback directly from young people at a conference organised by ChildLine which the Convener attended on behalf of the Committee. The views expressed, set out in the attached report, were overwhelmingly in favour of repeal and there are a number of highly relevant comments about young people’s experiences and their views on family relationships, bullying and sex education.
  14. Conclusions

  15. The Committee reached the following conclusions:

  • We support the repeal of section 2A and its replacement by a new section which will give reassurance to parents;
  • We agree that there should be wide consultation about the new guidelines;
  • We invite the Executive to give due consideration to the SPTC’s proposal (see paragraph 10) for giving statutory backing to guidance.

 

SUBMISSION FROM CHILDLINE SCOTLAND

ChildLine Scotland’s 4th Young People’s Conference was held at Murrayfield Stadium Conference Centre on Monday 20th March 2000. One hundred young people age 15 – 17 attended from schools across Scotland, from Shetland to the Borders. One of the issues raised by the young people for discussion was the proposed change to Section 28 (Clause 2A). Young people in workshops at the conference made the following statements.

… Section 28…

"For information in schools to be ‘promoted’ or discussed equally when it comes to sexuality and family relationships the discrimination contained within Section 28 is unrealistic. It’s the 21st century and the section has to be updated to suit the 21st century. What is needed is for all family situations to be explored and accepted provided that violence and abuse isn’t involved. With many different ‘families’ held within society there should be an open-minded view put across to young people with almost any situation accepted."

"I think it should be passed. It will affect everyone’s life and children, but it is an everyday subject and children should be taught about the different sexualities. But I think that the child should get leaflets and information on the subject. Also the child’s parents should get a permission slip saying whether they want their child to be taught this subject cause all parents will have different views and opinions on this topic."

"The word ‘pretended’ in the statement is an unacceptable, bigoted word to use, it doesn’t take into view the ‘real’ family that is mostly the case. Teachers (and local authority workers) shouldn’t have to have the responsibility of losing their jobs because they said something that could be taken out of context. I think homosexuality is a way of life now and it is wrong to be able to talk about man-woman sex but not hear any warnings or advice about man-man (or woman-woman) sex. Homosexuals can have ‘normal’, family, happy relationships (not pretend ones) just as much as heterosexual ones. Family is not 1 husband, 1 wife and 2.4 children, it is many other things. I find the both ‘pretend’ and ‘accept’ very offensive in this statement."

"I do not disagree with the discussion and informing of homosexuality. I actually believe that it is important for young people to be aware of their choices. I do not agree that homosexuality should be promoted in schools and the family unit consisting of a gay couple should not be acceptable in our society. Yes, everyone has a right to their own sexuality but it will be literally impossible to eradicate prejudices against homosexuality. A child’s feelings should be taken into consideration – this is not a family unit acceptable to the majority of our society."

"The way in which homosexual families or relationships are referred to in the Clause as ‘pretended’ is ridiculous. For a lot of people the homosexual family relationship will be exactly what their family is. Two male or two female parents will be, in many cases, as good as or better than two straight parents,. The reference to ‘pretended’ will be offensive to many people who are part of a successful homosexual family relationship. It is all about equality. Straight family relationships are promoted from a very young age, when you read story books at age five there is always ‘Mum’ ‘Dad’ and the children and there is never the situation of two fathers or two mothers. Straight families are constantly being promoted, homosexual ones are not – equality is addressed between men and women, why not straight and gay?"

"It is only a matter of time before section 28 is abolished whether it is now or ten years time. Currently far too much time is spent spurring negative reactions for a nonsensical law. What’s the point in it? Even if there was no law you are more than likely going to discover that teachers will not promote the acceptance of a pretended family relationship. This law in itself is extremely discriminatory."

"No matter what people say nothing will stop the human urge to be what they are. Homosexuality is a part of now everyday life. This idea should be promoted and eventually accepted. The aim in people’s life is to be happy, successful and raise a family. Why should anyone have the right to deny someone of this? It is really important for these issues to be promotes especially towards our younger generation because we are the people who are growing into this society. People should be aware of homosexuality because there are many factors needed to be brought into consideration. People should not be discriminated against and equality are ‘supposed’ to have been established. As children we are expected to grow up respecting people but by saying ‘pretend families’ is not respecting. Everyone is different. As time changes homosexuality will be accepted so why bother wasting money when there are far more deserving cases, that are more of a problem."

"As the clause stands just now I only partially agree with it. As the word ‘promote’ is used teachers feel they are unable to discuss other sexualities at all which means that many issues aren’t discussed and a lot of people who are homosexual aren’t as aware of the facts as they should and could be. I agree with the stand section 28 takes but I feel it should be changed so that people feel they are able to discuss it without being told they are wrong to do so. People of all sexualities must be aware of the dangers and we shouldn’t discriminate against homosexuals but they should be informed privately."

"Section 28 is old fashioned and needs to be renew3ed but better still abolished. It discriminates against people who are gay and singles them out in a society that is supposed to be becoming more accepting. If the section is abolished it doesn’t mean teachers will promote anything, they will simply inform us about gay issues in the same way they inform us about any other sexual issues."

"If promoting one type of sexuality made you that way then everyone would be heterosexual as that is what has always been promoted!"

"Section 28 is a lame excuse for avoiding the topic. Why is it that schools are afraid to deal with controversial real life problems that may not be viewed as problems if they were accepted rather than discouraged?"

In addition to these specific comments another group of young people on the day performed a drama presentation for the invited audience. This showed a classroom scene and a teacher feeling unable to deal with homophobic bullying because of Section 28. The young people, very powerfully, showed the negative effects experienced if this form of bullying is not strongly addressed.

 

Additional comments from workshop leaders are as follows:

  • Bullying Workshop – The group discussed bullying and homosexuality as well as other aspects relating to bullying. . They had seen peers getting very seriously bullied because of their sexuality and felt this made it difficult for others to be honest about their sexuality. The young people expressed very strongly that Section 28 should be repealed. They felt that they should have been consulted about this issue, not just their parents and teachers. They considered themselves to be the future and therefore should have greater input to decision-making processes. They talked about the need for increased openness about issues in school, such as homosexuality, leading to less stereotyping and a more non-judgemental attitude

 

 

Equal Opportunities Committee report to the Local Government Committee on the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill

Introduction

1. The Equal Opportunities Committee has taken evidence and received submissions on the general principles of the Bill from the following groups:

6 March 2000

Church of Scotland Board of Social Responsibility; Christian Action Research and Education (CARE); Evangelical Alliance; Roman Catholic Church; Ethnic Community Resource Centre; Islamic Mission; Islamic Society of Britain; Church of Scotland Education Committee; Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Scottish Episcopal Church.

20 March 2000

Keep the Clause Campaign; Equal Opportunities Commission; Equality Network;

Outright Scotland; Lesbian Mothers Network; Strathclyde Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth Group; Scottish Parents Enquiry.


Evidence

2. The oral evidence taken by the committee concentrated on part 4 of the Bill. The committee also considered written evidence from the Commission for Racial Equality which addressed other aspects of the Bill.

3. Those witnesses generally opposed to the repeal of section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 (Church of Scotland Board of Social Responsibility; Christian Action Research and Education (CARE); Evangelical Alliance; Roman Catholic Church; Ethnic Community Resource Centre; Islamic Mission; Islamic Society of Britain; Keep the Clause Campaign) argued for section 26 of the Ethical Standard in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill to specify ‘marriage’ when referring to ‘stable family life’. Some of these groups feared that the repeal of section 2A will lead to the introduction of inappropriate materials in schools and would like statutory guidelines to be introduced to safeguard against this.

4. Those witnesses in support of the repeal of section 2A (Church of Scotland Education Committee; Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Scottish Episcopal Church; Equal Opportunities Commission; Equality Network; Outright Scotland; Lesbian Mothers Network; Strathclyde Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth Group; Scottish Parents Enquiry) were in general agreement that section 2A prevents schools from meeting the needs of homosexual young people and of young people living with a homosexual parent or partner, that it discriminates on the grounds of sexuality and serves to legitimise homophobia. There was a belief that the mechanisms which prevent any inappropriate material entering into schools include material relating to homosexuality. These witnesses approved of the wording of section 26, providing that the phrase ‘stable family life’ is interpreted inclusively.

5. The committee notes that there is a difference of views within the evidence presented by the churches on this issue. The committee also notes that there were inconsistencies in the evidence presented by the Keep the Clause campaign some of which focused on the retention of section 2A, and some of which agreed that the language of section 2A is discriminatory and suggested that section 26 should promote traditional family values.


View of the Committee

6. The view of the Equal Opportunities Committee is that minority rights should be protected within the school curriculum. The committee believes that the impact of section 2A is discriminatory and breaches the spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights which presumes that people of different sexual orientations should be treated equally. The committee therefore supports the repeal of section 2A. (1)

(1)
Jamie McGrigor dissented

7. The committee endorses the wording of section 26 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill, providing that the phrase ‘stable family life’ is interpreted inclusively. The committee recommends that this phrase requires no further definition. The committee believes that the definition of a safe relationship is not peculiar to marriage and that there are other relationships within which a child is safe. Section 26 is aimed at protecting children and the view of the committee is that it addresses the fears raised by witnesses, including concerns that inappropriate material will be made available in schools once section 2A is repealed. There is a distinction between promotion of values within the family, and within the education system. The committee believes that the repeal of section 2A is not an attack on family values.

8. The committee received no evidence of teachers ever promoting homosexuality in Scottish schools before or after the introduction of section 2A. The committee has faith in the good sense of education authorities and the professionalism of teachers to act within guidelines and believes that removal of section 2A does not mean that teachers will promote homosexuality.

9. If the working group to review curriculum advice for schools and teachers is to draft guidance that deals specifically with homosexuality, the committee believes that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities should be consulted or allowed to have input. The committee also believes that the Commission for Racial Equality, Equal Opportunities Commission and Disability Rights Commission should be consulted in order to equality proof any guidance produced by the working group.

10. The committee endorses the recommendations made by the Commission for Racial Equality in its written evidence.



EXTRACTS FROM MINUTES


LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

7th Meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Monday 28 February 2000

Present:

Colin Campbell

Mr Kenneth Gibson

Trish Godman (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Dr Sylvia Jackson

Mr Michael McMahon

Bristow Muldoon

Mr Gil Paterson

Apologies were received from Keith Harding, Johann Lamont and Jamie Stone.

The meeting opened at 2.05pm.

Draft Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill: The Committee took evidence to inform future consideration of the General Principles at Stage 1 of the Bill from—

Mike Bennett, Policy Officer and Douglas Sinclair, Member of the Executive Committee, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers;

Bailie Christopher Mason and Ian Drummond, Chief Legal Adviser, Glasgow City Council.

The meeting closed at 4.29pm.

Eugene Windsor

Clerk to the Committee

 

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE

EXTRACT OF MINUTES

8th Meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Tuesday 7 March 2000

Present:

Colin Campbell

Mr Kenneth Gibson

Trish Godman (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Mr Keith Harding

Johann Lamont (Deputy Convener)

Mr Michael McMahon

Bristow Muldoon

Mr Gil Paterson

 

The meeting opened at 2.03pm.

Apologies were received from Jamie Stone and Sylvia Jackson.

Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill: The Committee took evidence at Stage 1 of the Bill from—

Robert Aldridge, Director and John Dickie, Head of Youth Housing Unit, Scottish Council for Single Homeless;

Jamie Rennie, Project Co-ordinator, Stonewall Youth Project and Ann Patrizio, Organiser, Parents’ Enquiry Scotland.

The meeting closed at 5.03pm.

Eugene Windsor

Clerk to the Committee

 

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

9th meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Tuesday 14 March 2000

Present:

Colin Campbell

Mr Kenneth Gibson

Trish Godman (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Dr Sylvia Jackson

Johann Lamont (Deputy Convener)

Mr Michael McMahon

Mr Gil Paterson

   
   

Apologies were received from Bristow Muldoon, Keith Harding and Jamie Stone.

The meeting opened at 2.03pm.

Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill: The Committee took evidence at Stage 1 of the Bill from—

Gordon Jeyes, General Secretary of the Association of Directors of Education and Bob McKay, member of the Executive of the Association of Directors of Education.

It was agreed to hold a private meeting on 21 March to consider questions to be addressed to the Deputy Minister for Local Government.

The meeting closed at 4.20pm.

Eugene Windsor

Clerk to the Committee

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

11th meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Tuesday 28 March 2000

 

Present:

Colin Campbell

Mr Kenneth Gibson

Trish Godman (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Mr Keith Harding

Johann Lamont (Deputy Convener)

Mr Michael McMahon

Bristow Muldoon

Mr Gil Paterson

Jamie Stone

Also present: Mr Frank McAveety (Deputy Minister for Local Government)

Apologies were received from Dr Sylvia Jackson.

The meeting opened at 1.35pm.

Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Bill: The Committee considered a report by Dr Sylvia Jackson on Standards Committee consideration on 22 March 2000 of methods of investigation of complaint.

The Committee took evidence at Stage 1 on the general principles of the Bill from—

Mr Frank McAveety (Deputy Minister for Local Government)

It was agreed that the Committee would consider its Draft Report at Stage 1 on 4 April in private.

 

The meeting closed at 3.58pm.

Eugene Windsor

Clerk to the Committee

 

 
 
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