Accord calls for stronger protections for LGBT people in Relationships and Sex Education

July 20, 2018

The Accord Coalition has urged the Government to amend its proposed guidance on the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education in schools to better promote the acceptance of LGBT people and to give implementation of the guidance a higher priority. Published yesterday, the guidance follows the enactment last April of the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

The Act requires the teaching in England of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at all secondary schools, Relationships Education at all primary schools and for the Education Secretary to issue statutory regulations on the teaching of the subjects. Compulsory teaching of RSE and Relationships Education was expected to begin in September 2019 but, with draft guidance and associated proposed secondary legislation only having been published this week, the move will not now occur until September 2020.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘The draft guidance requires schools to deal with sexual orientation and gender, and in a “respectful manner”, which is welcome. However, it appears to ignore that schools are a setting where a great deal of especially homophobic and transphobic bullying takes place.

‘Further, if there are not sufficient safeguards in place we may find schools that currently largely avoid talking about LGBT people begin to address LGBT content, but in ways that mean efforts to tackle prejudice are undermined. As such it is very important that schools should also be required to actively promote the acceptance of LGBT people.

‘It is very disappointing schools will not now have to provide Relationships Education or RSE until 2020. Statutory teaching of sex and relationships education is long overdue and the Department for Education’s recent lack of progress in this area has been unnecessary. A cost is that millions of pupils will now go an extra year without an entitlement to age-appropriate tuition on keeping safe and learning proper boundaries of behaviour and relationships. One thing the Government can do in the extra time it has available is make sure RSE is more LGBT inclusive.’

The guidance proposes to transfer the ability of parents to withdraw their child from RSE to their child when aged 15 or above. The guidance also proposes that all schools should teach about contraception and accessing confidential sexual and reproductive health-care services. This meets a number of demands made in an open letter that Accord helped organise last July from a group of 53 religious activists and clergy.

Homophobia and transphobia are found to blight many schools. In June 2017 the LGBT equality charity Stonewall issued its third five yearly report into the experience of LGBT pupils at British schools. Of LGBT pupils it found:

  • 22% at non-faith schools said staff never challenged homo, bi and transphobic language (rising to 31% of pupils in faith schools)
  • only 68% reported that their school said homo and biphobic bullying was wrong (dropping to 57% among faith school pupils)
  • only 41% reported that their school said transphobic bullying was wrong (dropping to 29 % of faith school pupils)

In May 2017 the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales co-published guidance for its schools ‘Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic Schools‘ which largely ignored the issue of transphobia. When asked in the same month during a national newspaper interview whether some pupils at Catholic schools had same sex parents the Catholic Education Service Chair, The Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, replied ‘Why would same-sex parents want to send their children to a Catholic school? But if they did, we would treat them and their children with respect.’

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