A group of student activists have created banners in the style of those made by Ofsted, the UK schools regulator, in a bid to highlight the lack of LGBT+ inclusive sex and relationship education (SRE) in English schools.
The student activists, part of youth campaign group StraightJacket, hung up banners—with the slogan “Outed!”—at every school in the south London borough of London, accusing the government of failing to provide a curriculum that includes LGBT+ individuals.
The banners state that SRE is “inadequate,” adding that it does not celebrate LGBT+ relationships nor does it challenge gender binaries and stereotypes.
Speaking to PinkNews, StraightJacket student activist Dias Fiano, 17, said: “We have ‘outed’ the Department for Education for the insufficient SRE curriculum, which is older than us.”
She added: “The overall aim [of the campaign] is to include the experiences of young people within school, especially LGBT+ students and non-binary students.”
Student activist: As a lesbian, I felt isolated and invisible at school
Fiano explained that the lack of LGBT+ has affected her personally and had a detrimental impact on her mental health.
She continued: “I identify as lesbian, and I felt quite isolated and I also felt that my experiences weren’t really ever a narrative that should be heard.
“I thought my thoughts and feelings were something to be ashamed of because it wasn’t spoken about and it made that whole journey of coming out, of self-discovery, so much harder…teachers wouldn’t even feel comfortable mentioning the idea of a queer couple.”
Student activists “out” lack of LGBT+ inclusive sex education in English schools
Last March, the government passed the Children and Social Work Act (2017), which pledges to make Relationships Education (RE) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) become compulsory in all schools in England.
As part of this, the government is updating the sex education guidance, which was last reviewed in 2000 when the anti-LGBT+ Section 28 banning the “promotion” of homosexuality was still in place.
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But, while the latest draft guidance specifically mentions LGBT people, Stonewall has said that “there were still areas where it risked failing to meet the needs of LGBT young people.”
Ibraheem Daniels, 18, who is also a member of StaightJacket and goes to Ark Evelyn Grace Academy, told PinkNews: “LGBT+ students at school are being disregarded.”
He added: “I held on to so many things internally…it built up into causing a lot of social anxiety and that caused a huge dip in my confidence.”
“I thought my thoughts and feelings were something to be ashamed of because it wasn’t spoken about and it made that whole journey of coming out, of self-discovery, so much harder.”
—Student activist Dias Fiano
In September 2017, a study by sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust found that 95 percent of young people have never learned about LGBT sex and relationships (SRE) in UK schools.
This is despite nearly half (49 percent) of students aged between 18 and 24 identifying as something other than heterosexual.
Stonewall is calling on the Department for Education to require all primary schools to teach about LGBT families and to “make it clear” that sex education should be “LGBT-inclusive, rather than simply ‘recommending’ that it should be.”
The government has held two public consultation on the new sex education guidance.
The mounting pressure on the government to make sex education in England LGBT+ inclusive comes after Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney recently announced that the teaching of LGBT+ content would be made mandatory in all schools in the country.