Hinds backs headteachers over LGBT education

The education secretary Damian Hinds has backed headteachers who teach pupils about LGBT relationships following protests by parents against the curriculum of a Birmingham school.

West Midlands police has confirmed it is investigating homophobic graffiti at Parkfield Community School following vocal rallies organised by parents against the school’s programme of study on LGBT rights amid concerns of a lack of parental consultation.

I’ve always been clear that I support headteachers to make decisions

The protests have stoked fears of a larger backlash against schools when new relationships and sex education guidance comes into force next year. The guidance states that the government “expects” schools to teach about LGBT relationships, but the timing of such teaching is to be left up to headteachers.

Speaking to Schools Week at Oasis’s Break the Cycle event in London this morning, Hinds said he backed heads when they teach about LGBT issues.

“First of all we should be clear the Parkfield question is of course before the RSHE guidance has come into place,” he said.

“I’ve always been clear that I support headteachers to make decisions and we believe in school  autonomy, that school leaders are best-placed to make decisions.

“Of course, it’s also right to consult with parents. That is just good practice anyway, and in the new guidance that’s quite clear about the need to consult with parents, but yes I do back headteachers.”

The education secretary also expressed his support for Ofsted’s ongoing clampdown on off-rolling.

It comes after Schools Week revealed that chief inspector Amanda Spielman personally intervened to mark down a school in Stoke after inspectors found evidence of the practice, which was commonplace across the city and sanctioned by the local authority.

It also follows heated debate this week about exclusions in the wake of a number of knife attacks on young people in London.

Hinds said he couldn’t talk about the situation in Stoke, but backed Ofsted’s efforts to clamp down on schools that take children off their rolls without formal exclusion.

“Off-rolling is not allowed,” he insisted.

“There is a role for exclusion of children and obviously we’ve had that discussion in the last couple of weeks and some of the terrible circumstances that have happened, but off-rolling should not happen, and I do think it’s right that we address that and I know that Ofsted including the chief inspector are very keen that we do.”

However, Hinds admitted the long-awaited Timpson review of exclusions and off-rolling is still not finalised. The report was supposed to be published by the end of last year, but the education secretary said the it was taking longer than planned because of the “need to make sure it is right”.

“It is in progress and it’ll be out quite soon,” Hinds told Schools Week.

“There is not a finalised document yet, but obviously the work is progressing at pace. I don’t have a date to give you right now. But these are important matters. I want this out as well, but we also absolutely need to make sure it is right and that’s a balance to be struck.”