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Sex ed teacher: If pupils want to discuss homosexuality, they can go see the nurse

Nick Duffy November 24, 2015

A study has discovered that sex and relationship education in schools often continues to neglect LGBT issues – even when claiming to be inclusive.

The news comes from researchers at Birmingham City University and Sheffield Hallam University, who investigated sex and relationship education (SRE) provisions in the local area.

The researchers conducted interviews with SRE teachers across eight Yorkshire secondary schools, all of whom claimed to provide pupils with inclusive SRE

However, the report finds that teachers “almost always constructed young people as heterosexual in their discussions”, and did not always discuss same-sex relationships.

Shockingly, one teacher who has taught SRE for eight years said that lessons weren’t the place to bring up homosexuality, and that pupils should “go to the nurse”.

The teacher – who is not named in the study, but described as “White British” – said: “In terms of the promotion of homosexuality and lesbianism, we don’t really get into all that.

“If they openly want to discuss homosexuality, I don’t think the classroom is the best place to do it.

“It’s something that we say if you have concerns about, we have the drop-in clinic with the school nurse.”

When asked about provisions for LGBT lessons, other teachers described lessons on homophobia and prejudice – while at the same time their sexual health discussions remained entirely focussed on heterosexual sex.

The authors noted: “Teachers employed a number of strategies to present their provision as inclusive, but each of these constructed young LGB people and those who engage in same-sex sexual practices as isolated cases, and therefore outside of the remit of mainstream SRE provision.”

“These strategies used involve reinforcing the presumption of heterosexuality, problematizing same-sex sexuality, and accounting for inclusivity, but only with reference to homophobia.”

The authors added: “It is clear that these claims toward inclusivity appear to be strategies employed by teachers to justify and defend their SRE practice.

“Despite clear claims for inclusivity, however, there is a lack of SRE provision focusing on sexual health and practices within same-sex relationships.”

Though Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has supported all schools providing an inclusive sex and relationship education, the government has rebuffed calls to legislate on the issue.

Lead researcher Keeley Abbott, lecturer in Social Psychology at Birmingham City University, said: “Our findings highlight a lack of understanding amongst teachers around what constitutes real inclusivity within the context of sex and relationship education.

“Lesbian, gay and bisexual students could be being left vulnerable here with a lack of any sex education provision that is relevant for them.

“We need the Government to step in and make SRE statutory with a policy, ensuring that teachers reflect on all aspects of their SRE practice and work to an inclusive curriculum that takes account of young people’s varying sexual identities, relationships and cultural backgrounds.”

Dr Sonja Ellis, lecturer in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University, added: “Teachers also need to be aware of the various ways of imposing heteronormalizing practices through their use of terminology, and should be using words such as ‘partner’ instead of ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’.

“Teachers currently have no restrictions when deciding both their approach to and delivery of SRE.

“We hope that our research encourages individuals at a policy level to see that they play a crucial role in establishing a clear curriculum framework from which teachers can gain clarity and confidence.”

More: Education, Gay, LGBT, school, schools, Sex, sex and relationship education, SRE

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