England’s largest teaching union will lobby the government to make teaching about LGBT+ relationships compulsory in all schools.
The National Education Union has today voted to campaign for a strengthening of new government guidance on relationships and sex education to force all primary and secondary schools to teach LGBT+ education.
The union will also demand that the government provides additional funded ring-fenced resources to councils to “enable them to develop a common approach and engage with parents and local communities”.
Although government reforms to relationships and sex education will make it compulsory for schools to teach pupils about relationships more generally from primary level, the guidance offers schools flexibility on when LGBT+ issues can be covered, meaning primary schools don’t have to cover the issues if their leaders don’t want to.
Following this morning’s vote, the NEU will also issue advice to schools to “empower them to positively teach an inclusive curriculum and develop a whole school approach to embed equality”, and will work with partners to “support increasing the scope of RSE in schools” and share good practice.
The union has also pledged to support members in schools where opposition to inclusive education is raised by parents, including by offering advice on how to engage parents in supporting inclusive education.
The urgent motion to NEU’s annual conference was submitted by members in the wake of a bitter dispute about the teaching of LGBT relationships at schools in Birmingham.
A number of schools in the city were recently forced to suspend teaching of the ‘No Outsiders’ programme of LGBT-inclusive education in the face of opposition from the community, despite having received the back of education secretary Damian Hinds and Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman.
The programme, which teaches pupils about LGBT relationships and rights, was designed by Andrew Moffat, the deputy head of Parkfield community school, and had been used by other schools across the city.
But the lessons were recently suspended at Parkfield, nearby Anderton Park primary school and at four trusts run by the Leigh Trust in response to the opposition from parents.
The protests have seen Moffat singled out for abuse because of his own sexuality and subject to threats, while Anderton Park head Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has faced calls to resign.
Hinds has moved to reassure headteachers that consulting with parents about new relationships and sex education “does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content”, amid concerns that parent-led protests in Birmingham could be replicated elsewhere once the new guidance comes into force.
And in an interview with Schools Week last week, Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor for the north west of England, offered to intervene in the dispute, insisting that pupils “don’t become gay because they learn about the fact there are gay people”.
What does the guidance say?
In its new guidance, the DfE says it “expects” all pupils to have been taught LGBT content “at a timely point” during the course of their relationships and sex education.
However, ministers have also sought to clarify that it will be up to schools when they teach about said issues. Such content will only be taught “at the point at which schools consider it appropriate”, the updated guidance said.
LGBT content was included in the draft guidance after years of lobbying by charities and campaign groups, which warned the new guidance was out-of-date and failed to prepare young people for the world around them.
But the move also angered religious and conservative groups, which have demanded the right to opt their children out of the lessons.
In teaching about LGBT issues, schools should ensure all teaching is “sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content”. The content should also be “fully integrated” into schools’ programmes of study for this area of the curriculum “rather than delivered as a standalone unit or lesson”.