The UK government is launching a consultation on plans to make LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education mandatory in schools.
A law passed earlier this year to make sex and relationship education a statutory requirement in all schools, after pressure on the issue from sexual health and children’s campaign groups.
The law itself does not require sex ed to be LGBT-inclusive, but the government is currently developing new guidance for SRE that may include direction on LGBT issues.
Today, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that there will be an eight-week call for evidence, inviting views on the content of sex and relationships education.
The consultation will look at “invite views on age-appropriate content” on LGBT issues, as as well as on mental wellbeing and staying safe online.
Education Secretary Justine Greening announced the consultation by highlighting the need for updated SRE guidance.
She said: “It is unacceptable that Relationships and Sex Education guidance has not been updated for almost 20 years especially given the online risks, such as sexting and cyber bullying, our children and young people face.
“Young people must have an education that teaches them the importance of healthy and stable relationships.”
Stonewall praised the government for “taking steps” to ensure that LGBT issues are taught about in all schools.
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive Stonewall said: “We’re pleased to see the government taking steps to ensure lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, and the issues they face, are included in relationship and sex education.
“The current guidance, published 17 years ago, contains no mention of LGBT people.
“Schools that teach LGBT-inclusive RSE are in the minority, leaving many LGBT young people without the information they need to make safe, informed decisions.
“Just 13 per cent of LGBT young people have learnt about healthy same-sex relationships.
“In schools where pupils receive an inclusive education, LGBT pupils are less likely to experience bullying. They are also more likely to report feeling safe, welcome and happy at school.
“We’ve been approached by many teachers who want to deliver inclusive education, but lack the confidence or knowledge to do so. We would encourage all pupils, teachers and parents to have their say to ensure schools offer a curriculum that serves all young people.”
Activist Peter Tatchell added: “LGBT+ pupils are some of the most vulnerable and under-served pupils in the school system. They mostly lack affirmation of their identity and the provision of life-saving safer sex advice. Nearly half suffer bullying which can have negative knock-on effects, including truancy, academic under-achievement, depression, anxiety and self-harm.
“It is reassuring to know that LGBT+ education will be part of the new RSE; though we will want to see the precise details when they are announced in due course.”
Ian Green, Chief Executive of HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust said: “It’s vital that compulsory Relationships and Sex Education is up to date and inclusive, and we’re pleased to have been invited to feed into the Department for Education’s eight-week consultation to ensure that this happens.
“In order to help tackle high rates of STIs among young people and ensure that all young people have the information they need to make informed decisions about relationships, we must see a strong emphasis on neglected topics such as sexual health and LGBT inclusion in this guidance.
“It’s vital that young people are at the heart of this initial consultation to ensure this is done right.”
A 2016 survey found that young people in the UK are being put at risk by “inconsistent” sex and relationship education with half (50%) of young people surveyed reporting they did not learn how to get help if they were abused, over half (53%) did not learn how to recognise grooming for sexual exploitation, and more than 40% had not learned about healthy or abusive relationships.
However, any plans for LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education will face opposition.
Conservative MP Philip Davies recently teamed up with anti-LGBT activists to rally against plans for compulsory sex ed on the issue.
MP Philip Davies lashed out at the plans last month.
The Conservative MP for Shipley spoke out against Greening, who is the most senior gay politician in the country, in a letter for the Telegraph alongside a number of anti-LGBT lobbying groups.
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He wrote: “The Government’s decision to impose relationships education on every child in England from the age of five undermines that freedom.
“Not only will parents be denied the right to withdraw children from relationships education, but Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, has already spoken in favour of introducing very young children to concepts, such as homosexuality and transgenderism, at an age where these cannot be critically assessed.
“We note that the Secretary of State has made no mention of ensuring that children are taught about the well-established benefits associated with being brought up by married natural parents.
“Relationships education was voted through Parliament on the grounds that it would help protect children from exploitative relationships and internet predators. Instead, will it be used to stigmatise traditional marriage and promote to children alternative lifestyles against parents’ wishes?
“This would be a coercive and unnecessary measure damaging the position of all parents in England. We demand that the forthcoming consultation on relationships education puts the rights of parents ahead of the power of the state.”
The letter was signed by Davies along with two other MPs, Steve Double and Martin Vickers.
Mr Double’s involvement in the letter about the importance of marriage is particularly ironic, given last year he publicly apologised for cheating on his wife of 30 years with a blonde 26-year-old aide.
It is also signed by a rogue’s gallery of anti-LGBT lobbyists, including Andrea Williams of Christian Concern, who has publicly defended gay ‘cure’ therapy.
Also signatories of the letter are Thomas Pascoe of the Coalition for Marriage, Colin Hart of the Christian Institute and Revd Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream – all strong opponents of LGBT rights laws previously.