Education Secretary: Faith schools must find ‘common ground’ on LGBT issues
Education Secretary Justine Greening has said that “common ground” must be reached with faith schools on LGBT sex ed.
The Education Secretary last month passed a bill to make SRE mandatory in all schools, after pressure on the issue from sexual health and children’s campaign groups.
She announced plans “to put Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing, so every child has access to age appropriate provision, in a consistent way”.
The initial plans did not include a commitment to LGBT-inclusivity, but LGBT charity Stonewall says it will be “working with the Government to ensure [LGBT issues] are reflected in updated guidance for schools”.
Speaking this week at the launch of Schools Diversity Week, Ms Greening fielded questions about how she will negotiate the tensions on LGBT-inclusivity in faith-based schools.
She said: “It is so easy for everyone just to stay in their corner and reflect on the differences. We’ve now got to find the common ground and make sure we bring forward some new guidance that genuinely works in schools.
“We’ve got to respect some differences but in the end, I think we’ve now got a genuine chance to work the best way through all of that.”
At the same event, Ms Greening spoke about coming out as gay during Pride in London last year.
She said: “My tweet was the best thing I’ve done in many a year. And actually, it gets better every day.
“I am better for being who I am and being clear about that… I think it was a choice I needed to make. I needed to be true to myself about who I am, and I also felt I did and I do have a responsibility to the broader LGBT community.”
It really struck me in my constituency how many parents wrote to me saying ‘thank you because you made it easier for my child at school’.”
The Church of England previously released a statement welcoming Ms Greening’s SRE reforms, but warning they must be “appropriate” for its schools.
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The Church warned: “[Some Christians] will argue that school is not the right place to teach such matters… we are clear that any such legislative change should come with suitable safeguards to ensure that parents are consulted and retain the right to withdraw their children and that the education is be framed in a way which is appropriate to the ethos and character of the school.
“But the Church of England is, collectively, the biggest single source of education in the country, with around a million children learning in its schools. We know from everyday experience of the pressing need to equip children for the world in which they are growing up.”
The response, penned by Bishop of Ely Rt Revd Stephen Conway, added: “It is becoming increasingly clear that what might have held in previous eras is no longer the most effective way of keeping our children safe and preparing them for life in the world in which they live.
“In an age when even primary school children are becoming exposed to online pornography – often by accident – and when practices such as ‘sexting’ are becoming commonplace at a younger and younger age, we cannot simply advocate an approach like the three monkeys coverings their eyes, ears and mouths, vowing to see, hear or speak no evil.”
The Church of England recently vowed to go back to the drawing board on LGBT issues, after a report affirming anti-gay marriage stances was rejected.