Civic leaders urge Department for Education to not backtrack on the promotion of LGBT inclusivity

February 15, 2019

A group of 54 religion and belief leaders, educationalists and LGBT rights advocates have this week sent an open letter to the Education Secretary urging that the Department for Education does not dilute rules requiring independent schools to cover LGBT content. The letter has been organised by the Accord Coalition, along with Humanists UK and the Sex Education Forum, and comes at a time when the promotion of LGBT inclusivity in the school system is under renewed threat.

Last year the Department issued draft inspection guidance for independent schools which effectively enables independent primary schools to ignore LGBT topics, when the schools are currently supposed to cover issues such as same sex marriage, same sex cohabiting couples and LGBT parents. In the summer it was followed by draft statutory relationships and sex education guidance which would allow primary schools to ignore LGBT content and does not make clear all schools should actively promote the acceptance of LGBT people.

The Government is also coming under pressure to weaken the promotion of LGBT inclusivity in schools from campaigners who sense the Department for Education may be willing to set the clock back. It is currently facing a spurious legal challenge that requiring schools to cover LGBT issues breaks human rights law, and empty threats that England’s Charedi Jewish community will leave the UK if their schools are made to address LGBT content.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said: ‘If LGBT people are to live free from discrimination, stigma or prejudice then schools should not be settings where a great deal of LGBT bullying still takes place, but actively promote inclusivity on these grounds. The letter demonstrates the wide body of support in favour of ensuring this. The Government must not row back on earlier commitments and cave in to those who wish schools to discriminate against or marginalise LGBT people.’

The letter and its full list of signatories are below:


As members or leaders of religion and belief groups, educationists, campaigners and school leaders, we are concerned by reports that the Department for Education is planning to dilute the advice it publishes on the independent school standards, to no longer stipulate that all independent schools must teach respect for LGBT people. This poses a significant safeguarding risk to LGBT young people, who are still subject to significant levels of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying.

Research shows that 45% of LGBT pupils are subject to bullying because of their identity, and the majority hear discriminatory language in school. Challenging LGBT discrimination in school lessons and in everyday school life is fundamental to fostering equality at school and in wider society. This teaching should take place at both primary and secondary level, to stem the development of anti-LGBT prejudice and to support LGBT people in the school community.

It’s important to recognise that being LGBT and having a religion are not mutually exclusive. LGBT people are members of all communities, across religions and non-religious worldviews. While it is possible for schools to consider issues from a range of religion or belief perspectives, fundamentally all schools, including those with a religious character, must provide lessons that inform young people of their rights, and promote a culture of inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

That’s why we urge the secretary of state to ensure that, irrespective of the type of school they attend, all children are supported and allowed to thrive through education that actively promotes respect and encourages LGBT acceptance.

o   Christina Baron, Chair of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group
o   Simon Barrow, Director, Ekklesia
o   Melissa Benn, writer and campaigner
o   Paul Bishop, Assistant Head Teacher & Director of Sixth Form, Saint Cecilia’s Church of England School, SW18
o   John Bolt, General Secretary, Socialist Educational Association
o   Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, The National Education Union
o   Dr Nuala Burgess, Chair, Comprehensive Future
o   Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive, OneBodyOneFaith
o   Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK
o   Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, The National Education Union
o   Shaun Dellenty, founder of Inclusion For All
o   Natasha Devon MBE, Mental Health Campaigner
o   Martin Doré, Chair, Socialist Educational Association
o   Luke Dowding, Co-Director, Affirm
o   Dr Eleanor Formby, Reader in Sociology and Youth Studies, Sheffield Hallam University
o   Professor Becky Francis, Director, UCL Institute of Education
o   The Reverend Jane Fraser, Manager of the relations and sex education charity, Bodysense
o   The Rt Rev David Gillett, Former Anglican Bishop of Bolton
o   Professor Jonathan Glazzard, Carnegie School Of Education, Leeds Beckett University
o   Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, National Aids Trust
o   Ian Green, Chief Executive Officer, Terrence Higgins Trust
o   Reverend Heston Groenewald, Vicar, All Hallows Church, Leeds
o   Ruth Hilton, Chair, JAT
o   Rabbi Margaret Jacobi (Birmingham Synagogue)
o   Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
o   Mark Jennett, Sexuality and gender equality in schools specialist
o   The Very Revd Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
o   Revd Richard Jones, Associate Minister, Hereford Diocese
o   The Revd Cannon Peter Leonard, Chair of the OneBodyOneFaith, and Acting Dean and Canon Chancellor of Portsmouth Cathedral
o   Naomi Long MLA, Leader of the Alliance Party
o   Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
o   Revd Iain McDonald (United Reformed Church)
o   Loic Menzies, Chief Executive, LKMco
o   Rabia Mirza, Director of Media, Engagement & Lobbying, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
o   Fiyaz Mughal, Director, Faith Matters
o   The Very Revd Bertrand Olivier (Anglican)
o   Jayne Ozanne, Director, Ozanne Foundation
o   Brian Pearce, Former Buddhist Chaplain to prisons in Wales
o   Martin Pendergast, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality
o   Reverend Professor Michael J Reiss, UCL Institute of Education and Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Education Committee 2014/15 Personal, Social and Health Education Inquiry
o   Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
o   Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain (Maidenhead Synagogue)
o   Neil Roskilly, Chief Executive Officer, The Independent Schools Association
o   Alison Ryan, Steering Commitee member of the, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
o   Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah (Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue)
o   Dawn Savidge, Co-Director, Affirm
o   Lynnette Smith, Chair, Sex Education Forum
o   Revd Tim Stead (CofE)
o   Martin Stears-Handscomb, Co-Chair, Accepting Evangelicals
o   Revd Stephen Terry, Chair, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
o   Revd Robert Thompson (CofE)
o   Revd Tony Whatmough, Team Rector, Headingly Team Ministry
o   Revd Claire Wilson (CofE)
o   Revd Simon Wilson, Heacham, Norfolk (CofE)

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