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Head teachers demand clearer guidance on LGBT relationships education

Sofia Lotto Persio May 5, 2019
Parents and protestors demonstrate against 'No Outsiders,' an LGBT relationships education.

Parents and protestors demonstrate against LGBT relationships education in Birmingham. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) called on the Department for Education (DfE) to offer clearer guidance on LGBT+ relationships education.

NAHT members for their three-day annual conference in Telford, unanimously passing a motion titled “Equality and British values” on Saturday (May 4).

The motion calls for “a more robust and legally enforceable policy and support for schools as they carry out their public sector equality duty,” as well as teaching “British values in order to identify and combat discrimination for the protection of children and adults.”

The motion passed after Birmingham’s Anderton Park Primary School head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson made an impassioned speech about protesters opposed to LGBT+ relationships education, which she says they’ve been outside her school for the past five weeks.

The motion the NAHT passed in support of clearer guidance on LGBT+ relationships education.
The motion the NAHT passed in support of clearer guidance on LGBT+ relationships education. (NAHTNews/Twitter)

Hewitt-Clarkson called out a discrepancy between the DfE draft statutory guidance, which indicates that children at primary school levels should learn about different kinds of families—including same-sex families—and a “Frequently Asked Questions” document about the guidance, which states schools are “enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so,” without requiring it to teach it.

“How is LGBT allowed by the DfE to be singled out for special consideration for whether it’s appropriate enough? Frequently asked questions are not policy, but this is why I have these protests,” the head teacher said, quoted in SchoolsWeek.

Hewitt-Clarkson called on Education Secretary Damian Hinds, who offered solidarity with the teachers facing protests in his address to the NAHT on Friday (May 3), to work together with the organisation to improve the policy.

She said: “Damian, you said you are never too young to learn kindness and compassion. But these parents think you are, and your frequently asked questions say that they are. You said no children should walk past protests. Well they do. You said ‘you should be free from intimidation to do your jobs’. We are not.

“So Damian and the DfE. Work with us…and work fast to sort out this unequal mess.”

The NAHT vote follows one held in April among members of the National Education Union, the UK’s largest teaching union, who agreed the union must lobby to make Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) compulsory in all schools.

“It’s just a simple understanding that, just as families worship differently, they also love and marry differently.”

— Amanda Spielman

A spokesperson for the DfE quoted in BBC News maintained the guidance was “clear” in what was expected from LGBT+ relationships education.

“There is a clear expectation in the RSE guidance that LGBT+ content will be taught during a child’s school years – this will be expected at secondary and encouraged and enabled at primary,” the spokesperson said, adding: “Ultimately it is for the school to decide what is taught in the curriculum and we trust them to make reasonable decisions based on the feedback they receive from parents.”

Ofsted chief defends LGBT+ relationships education

Also addressing the NAHT on Saturday, Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman also spoke against the protests. She said, quoted in ITV News: ““The Equality Act is designed to enforce a number of different rights. And of course, there are places where these different rights can bump into each other.

“One clear tension exists in places where equality between the sexes comes second to religious belief and cultural preferences.

“Another tension arises between religious belief and relationships education in the context of LGBT issues. And what we’re talking about here is not sex education.

“It’s just a simple understanding that, just as families worship differently, they also love and marry differently.”

More: Anderton Park Primary School, Birmingham, Damian Hinds, LGBT relationships education, NAHT, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, UK

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