Gibb: More prescriptive LGBT guidance wouldn’t have prevented protests

More prescriptive guidance forcing primary heads to teach about LGBT relationships would not have prevented protests outside schools in Birmingham, the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb told the House of Commons today that new statutory guidance on relationships and sex education deliberately left it up to schools when to teach about LGBT issues in order to achieve “consensus” and to get the changes through Parliament.

New relationships education lessons will become compulsory in all schools from next September, while all secondary schools will also have to teach sex education.

The guidance, which is statutory for schools, states that LGBT issues must be covered, but that it is up to school leaders to decide when it is “appropriate” to do so.

Campaigners and opposition MPs claim a lack of stronger guidance has exacerbated protests against existing equalities teaching in several Birmingham schools and left headteachers to deal with parental anger over the policy, rather than ministers.

During a debate on the issue in Parliament today, several MPs called for changes to the guidance to stipulate that primary schools must teach about LGBT relationships.

But responding to such calls from Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, Gibb remained defiant.

“I don’t believe that that would have prevented the protests that she is seeing at the Birmingham school,” he said.

“There is a segment of opinion on either end of this debate that will not be persuaded of the appropriateness of this guidance. There are some people who will never agree to LGBT issues being taught in schools. So as such I do not believe requiring it in the way the honourable lady says in the guidance to be taught at a specific age in primary schools would have had any impact at all on preventing those protests.”

Gibb said he had been “absolutely clear” that the government supports “schools and headteachers of primary schools that wish to teach LGBT relationships to children in our schools”.

He also pledged to back councils that take legal action to prevent protests “that have turned into intimidation against young people”, as the government did with Birmingham council’s recent injunction against protesters at Anderton Park primary school.

But the minister warned that the government’s reforms may not have become a reality had the guidance been more prescriptive, because some schools and politicians would have opposed a harder line.

“If we had taken her advice, we would not have had the consensus for this statutory guidance, there would have been opponents of the regulations as we took it through this house and [the House of Lords] and we would not have been able to achieve acceptance by a whole raft of independent private schools that we want to be included as subject to this statutory guidance.”

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  1. Gibb is confusing the issues. While there are undoubtedly significant groups of parents opposed to any teaching of LGBT issues, especially in religious and private schools, this not the focus of the parental protests at the Birmingham schools. These parents are concerned with ‘how’ and ‘when’. In relation to ‘how’, it is the ‘No Outsiders’ programme pushed by Andrew Moffat that they object to. In this they are far from alone. His book is panned in the reviews on Amazon.

    There are 9 positive reviews and 14 that are critical. Many of the latter focus on the difficulty of concepts such as ‘having two daddies’ and whether these are accessible to the infant stage of cognitive development. Writing the resources in infant language does not solve this problem, while restricting their use to infant age children.

    Infants typically are interested in, ‘where they came from’ (mummy’s tummy) and what daddy had to do with it, which must inevitably at some stage lead to the mention of eggs and sperm. Infant teachers, along with parents are well used to responding to questions around these facts.

    Into these developing infant mental schema, gay pride leader, Andrew Moffat wants to introduce the concept of ‘two daddies’ or ‘two mummies’. Given that (hopefully) the children have all learned that they, like their pets and the birds in the garden, all have a mummy and a daddy, how is a teacher to respond to the inevitable questions about ‘two daddies’? Any honest answer cannot be understood without a level of cognitive and emotional development well beyond that of an infant child. This is something that the parents understand that has got nothing to do with their religion or ‘homophobia’.

    So what is the point of giving such children books that introduce such ideas if the children lack the cognitive ability to understand the implications? This is not sound education, but looks more like LGBT community-pleasing ‘gesture’ politics.

    Where Gibb is right is that it is not the role of the government to enforce particular approaches onto schools for which there is no consensus from educationalists. In LA schools it is the responsibility of the governing body (not the head) to make such such curriculum decisions and they are required to properly consult parents. There is lots of ‘twitter talk’ about this encouraging parental protests outside schools, but this has only happened in two schools. One is an LA school where the parents and their MP claim that the governors have not undertaken the due consultation process, and the other is an Academy, which is under no obligation to consult parents at all, about anything. No wonder the parents are protesting.

    The fact is that thousands of schools are quietly making their own decisions about how best to satisfy the legal requirements of the Equalities Act without any parental problems. Which is just as it should be.