Two gay charities have attacked the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) for rewording a teachers’ code of conduct after faith groups complained they would have to “promote” homosexuality.

A section of the code designed to tackle discrimination was changed from “promoting equality and diversity” to “demonstrating respect for equality and diversity”.

The changes were made after hundreds of objections from faith groups, who felt the code would require Christian teachers to “promote beliefs and lifestyles at odds with their faith”.

Sarah Stephens, director of policy at the GTC, defended the revised code. She told the Guardian that its wording had been changed to relate only to teachers’ actions, and not their values or beliefs.

Schools Out and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Society (GALHA) have called the GTC “weak” for revising the code, saying it would further homophobic bullying.

Nigel Tart of Schools Out told PinkNews.co.uk: “Schools Out deplores the weak leadership shown by the GTC. Backing down over the requirement for teachers to ‘promote diversity’ will send the wrong signal to the profession.

“Just when we thought real change was round the corner, it looks like another generation will continue to face relentless homophobia and transphobia without guaranteed support from teachers.

“We know, from our experience of tackling racism, that school cultures will not change without positive duties to actively promote diversity and inclusion.”

GALHA secretary David Christmas said: “The very fact that the revised version of the diversity code of conduct waters down the requirement from ‘valuing diversity”’to merely ‘respecting diversity’ is disturbing. Even more astonishingly, teachers are no longer required to be ‘sensitive to the socio-economic and cultural context in which they are working’.

“It is claimed that the original wording might prevent some teachers from speaking their minds on issues such as sexuality. But teachers are not employed to indoctrinate pupils with their personal opinions, whether religious or otherwise.

“We need to remember here that we are not dealing with an adult after-dinner debate, but with the fate of children, many of whom will be emotionally vulnerable. Evidence from recent surveys already suggests that homophobic bullying in faith schools is an even worse problem than in schools at large. But how can teachers be expected to confront bullying effectively when the government appears, yet again, to have caved in to bullying on this very point?”

He added: “Does bullying pay? Apparently if you’re a member of a religious lobby it often does. This weak-minded decision should be reversed without delay.”