Sex and Relationships Education guidance must be followed by Government action

February 28, 2014

The Accord Coalition has welcomed new guidance for schools on the teaching of Sex and Relationships Education by the Sex Education Forum, Brook and the PSHE Association, which has been published today. However, it has called on the Government to take action to ensure that religious perspectives are not allowed to trump the need for Sex and Relationships Education to be balanced and challenge transphobia and homophobia.

Chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan MBE, said ‘Sex and Relationships Education is at risk of being hijacked by those with ideological views lacking in evidence, such as those who seek to delay when information surrounding how human reproduction is presented and those who want schools to advocate abstinence. Meanwhile, there are a variety of religious interpretations about matters of sexuality, and although schools cannot discriminate against individuals on the grounds of their sexual orientation under the Equality Act 2010, the Act does not extend to the content of a school’s curriculum.

‘Accord is very pleased that the Department for Education has agreed to endorse the excellent guidance. However, it should also give the guidance statutory backing to ensure it is observed, as well issue further guidance making clear that Sex and Relationships Education in schools must be balanced, accurate and promotes a tolerance of sexual diversity.’

Speaking at last summer’s annual Education for All Conference organised by the lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity Stonewall, Rabbi Romain argued that all faith schools should add for themselves three commandments, ‘Do not discriminate against LGBT pupils; do not discriminate against LGBT staff and job applicants, and provide a curriculum that is balanced about matters of sexuality and promotes an acceptance of diversity’. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report‘ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools had experienced homophobic bullying, but in faith schools the figure rose to three in four. The report also revealed lesbian and gay pupils that attended faith schools were 23% less likely to report bullying than those at non-faith schools.

Accord has championed schools that have exhibited best practice around tackling homophobia. In 2011 Gwinear Community Primary School in West Cornwall won Accord’s Inclusive Schools Award. It won strong praise from the judges for its LGBT equality work, which included organising workshops for children led by a local charity dealing with LGBT bullying, as well as visits to the school from a gay parent to meet with teachers, pupils and other parents. In the 2012 Award St George’s School, a Christian faith secondary school in Hertfordshire, was placed second for its outstanding work in tackling homophobic bullying, which it based in a Christian context of treating everyone with respect and kindness.

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