Private schools to get ‘exemption’ from LGBT education
The government will no longer require private schools to provide LGBT-inclusive education, according to reports.
A number of faith schools have recently faced rebuke by education watchdog Ofsted for failing to teach pupils respect for diversity, noting the lack of education on LGBT+ issues.
However, The Sunday Times reports that private primary schools are to be handed a broad opt-out under new plans.
The change comes after a consultation on reforms to the independent school regulatory system, launched by Education Secretary Damian Hinds in March.
The initial proposals had set out that acceptable standards “[require] active promotion of respect for other people, even if they hold views, choose to follow a lifestyle, or have protected characteristics, different from a pupil’s own or those prevalent in the pupil’s immediate community,” adding that pupils must be made aware of the Equality Act’s protected characteristics — which include “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” — in an “age-appropriate way.”
The Sunday Times reports that after lobbying from faith schools, the requirement has been watered down, and the government’s as-yet unpublished response will stipulate that independent primary schools should not be failed by Ofsted for not teaching about LGBT+ issues.
The move has been slammed as a “U-turn,” caving into demands from faith schools that resist teachings on LGBT+ issues.
Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University told the Times: “Whether or not young children should be taught about LGBT issues and gay families in schools has been a battleground for ages.
“This looks like a government U-turn. Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups have bitterly resisted the requirement to teach alternative lifestyles, with protests and placards. If this loophole is granted to independent schools, there will be a big push for this in state primary schools too.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Independent schools, like all schools, have to promote respect for other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics under the 2010 Equalities Act.”
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The news comes as the government conducts a separate consultation on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in schools, which is running until November.
The government is drawing up new RSE guidance the first time since 2000, and has identified LGBT+ issues as a key area to be addressed in the new guidance, alongside new material on consent, the internet and domestic abuse.
It says: “By the end of primary school, pupils should know that others’ families, either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children’s families are also characterised by love and care for them.”
The provision of RSE is set to be made compulsory in independent schools, free schools and academies from 2020, though the details of the provisions allow some leeway.