Intimidation of schools over LGBT+ education 'unacceptable', says Ofsted chief

It is “unacceptable” for parents to intimidate schools and teachers who are fulfilling their legal duty to teach about equality, the chief inspector of schools has said.

Amanda Spielman told the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers this morning that it would be a “huge step backwards if schools became reluctant to teach children about the diversity of modern Britain”.

Clearly, it’s unacceptable to intimidate schools and to intimidate teachers who are trying to do what’s asked of them under the law

Her comments follow protests in Birmingham and other areas over the teaching of LGBT+ issues in schools. School leaders have reported receiving threats and online abuse, and pupils have been forced to walk past protests daily on the way to school.

Speaking this morning, Spielman warned of a “worrying trend of extreme pressure being put on individual schools, especially primary schools”.

“The equality act is designed to enforce a number of different rights,” she told headteachers. “And of course, there are places where these different rights can bump into each other. We need to acknowledge and discuss this a bit more.

“One clear tension exists in places where equality between the sexes comes second to religious belief and cultural preferences. Another tension arises between religious belief and relationships education in the context of LGBT issues.”

Yesterday, Damian Hinds, the education secretary, also backed heads over LGBT education, and called for an end to the protests.

“No child should have to walk past a protest to go to school, and no teacher should have to walk past a protest to go to school,” he told the conference.

“It is right that there is dialogue, we want schools to consult with parents. Ultimately there is no veto over what is taught in schools. That is head teachers’ domain. I call on people to not be protesting – talking by all means, but not protesting because it is not good for those children, and it is not good for your fellow professionals.”

Today, Spielman said it was “so worrying on a number of fronts” that there are protests at school gates and children are being withdrawn from schools over relationships education.

“The effect on community cohesion, the impact on teachers and schools, and most of all the impact on children. The children in whose name, if not whose interests the protests are made.

“Clearly, it’s unacceptable to intimidate schools and to intimidate teachers who are trying to do what’s asked of them under the law. And it would be a huge step backwards if schools became reluctant to teach children about the diversity of modern Britain.”

Spielman said she hoped that dialogue would “remove misconceptions, help people see the bigger picture and to find sensible and workable solutions”.

“And more generally, teaching a broad and stimulating curriculum, preparing children for life in modern Britain and tackling social issues that are not of your making, these are huge challenges for schools and for teachers.”