The Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds has weighed in to the debate over teaching about the existence of LGBT people in Birmingham schools, reiterating that schools – not parents – get to decide what is included in relationships and sex education.
In the letter to the General Secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), Paul Whiteman, Mr Hinds outlined the need for consultation with parents on RSE including teachings on LGBT issues, but stated ‘what is taught, and how, is ultimately a decision, for the school.’
He said the Government’s position is that pupils should receive teaching on LGBT relationships during their school years but said for primary schools can decide if it is ‘age-appropriate’ to do so.
Compulsory RSE comes into force in September 2020 for all schools but parent protests against LGBT-inclusive lessons in schools which are already teaching the content have been increasing.
Humanists UK, which campaigns for inclusive relationships and sex education in schools, including promoting tolerance and respect for LGBT people as part of the subject, has been calling on the Government to provide leadership and better support to those schools at the centre of the protests.
Commenting on the letter, Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham said:
‘It is encouraging that the Government has backed schools and said parents don’t have the right to veto the curriculum but worrying that the onus is still entirely on schools.
‘We worry that some headteachers may feel unable to handle the strain that these protests are putting on the whole school community. As a result, schools could be inclined to cave in to the views of some forceful, bigoted parents, and the DfE may allow this, which would be an utter disaster for the teaching of equality and pupils’ rights.’
‘LGBT lessons are yet to be reinstated in many of the schools involved in these disputes due to ongoing consultations with parents. The Government must do more than just “enable and encourage” primary schools to teach LGBT-inclusive RSE – it must insist that they do. Only this will ensure that schools are able to get on with teaching the curriculum.’
Last month, Parkfield school announced it was suspending its LGBT inclusive programme, No Outsiders, due to repeated parent protests which then led to five other schools suspending their classes.
At the time, Humanists UK said ‘Schools have an important role in educating students about all types of relationships and that includes teaching respect and tolerance for LGBT people. They have a duty to protect the wellbeing of all of their students including LGBT students who are at higher risk of bullying without such education.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3078.
For more information on our work on relationships and sex education, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.