Education minister sparks serious concerns after suggesting LGBT+ lessons in primary schools could be derailed by religion
A government minister has said that teaching about LGBT+ people during relationship education lessons in primary schools should “take into account” the religion of pupils.
The government’s new relationships and sex education curriculum, which comes into effect from September, requires LGBT-inclusive lessons in secondary schools.
However, while the government says it “strongly encourages” teaching about LGBT+ families in primary schools, it has stopped well short of making it mandatory amid a backlash against inclusive education.
Answering questions in the House of Lords on Tuesday, education minister Baroness Berridge reaffirmed that LGBT-inclusive lessons would not strictly be required for primary pupils.
She said: “The guidance is clear that secondary schools should include LGBT content but, ‘primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled’, when teaching about different types of relationships within families, to include families of same-sex parents.
“That is clearly a move from mandatory to permissive language.
“Obviously, the Equality Act is also enforced in schools and schools are required to take into account the other protected characteristics, including of course the religious background of students in the school.”
Stonewall co-founder ‘concerned’ by education minister’s words on LGBT+ education.
The reference to “religious background” has sparked concern that the Department of Education will effectively stay out of battles over primary school provision — with fundamentalist Christian and Muslim groups spearheading a wave of protests aimed at gutting inclusive lessons.
Stonewall co-founder Lord Cashman tweeted: “Concerned by inference from Baroness Berridge @UKHouseofLords questions today which suggests that when it comes to sex and relationship education in primary schools religious belief will also have to be taken into account re LGBT.”
The minister had been asked how the new guidance is consistent with the approach taken by schools inspector Ofsted, which has previously penalised primary schools for ignoring the existence of same-sex parents in relationship education provisions.
Baroness Berridge said that Ofsted will use the new guidance “as a guide for assessing part of the personal development section of inspection” — indicating that enforcement around LGBT-exclusionary primary schools may cease.
LGBT+ relationship and sex education changes set to come into effect from September.
While the new curriculum was set to come into effect from September 2020, the minister also signalled that schools may have some flexibility due to the strain caused by COVID-19, and a lack of time to consult with parents.
She said: “We are aware that there are a number of curriculum decisions that schools need to take.
“I reassure noble Lords that due consideration is being given to RSHE implementation and its implications for schools. We are working closely with the RSHE working group, which includes the teachers’ unions and faith organisations.”