Accord criticises contradictory Relationships and Sex Education curriculum guidance

September 29, 2020

The Department for Education has issued schools with non-statutory relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education guidance which offers contradictory advice regarding LGBT inclusivity and toleration of political dissent. The guidance, which was released last Thursday, supports RSE becoming mandatory in all schools and health education mandatory in all state funded schools this academic year and complements pre-existing RSE statutory guidance.

The new guidance states that primary schools are ‘strongly encouraged’ to include same sex parents when teaching about different types of family. But this is in stark contrast to the recent stance taken by Ofsted that it would not downgrade primary schools for editing out LGBT people in their teaching, which the inspectorate adopted in response to pressure from Government supporters.

Furthermore, the new guidance uses clumsily worded language that could make it harder for transgender children and young people to identify confidently as themselves. For example, it warns teachers to ‘… not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear’. This implies that teachers may be pushing children and young people into being transgender, and thus casts doubt on the extent to which being trans is an innate quality, while it risks stigmatising trans people by framing pejoratively the suggestion of someone being trans.

The new guidance also affirms that schools must not promote partisan political views and urges schools to be discerning about any external experts or resources they may use, and to especially avoid those ‘that take or promote extreme positions’. The guidance goes on to list examples of ‘extreme political stances’. These include those that are anti-democratic, racist or fail to condemn violence, but also those with ‘… a publicly stated desire to abolish … capitalism’. This delegitimises a political aim via a heavy-handed approach, which the Department appears to advocate against elsewhere. In training materials for schools about relationships education that the Department has simultaneously released, it advises that teachers should “explain the harm caused by ‘cancel culture’ and the importance of freedom of speech … [and] that censorship and ‘no platforming’ are harmful and damaging.” (p45)

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘There is a delicate balance to be struck between promoting tolerance and inclusion and being intolerant of threats to these objectives. Unfortunately, in some areas this latest guidance falls short or is otherwise contradictory. We therefore urge the Department for Education to revise it so that, for example, schools are encouraged to challenge rather than make transphobic assumptions, and are not encouraged to repress ideas that may be unconventional but are not necessarily illegitimate in a rights respecting democracy.’

‘One reason inclusivity issues can be difficult to navigate in the school system is because it has evolved around contradictory principles. Schools are supposed to combat discrimination and are supposed to promote equality of opportunity. Yet the more than one third of schools which are faith based have exemptions from equality law that enable them to religiously discriminate, whether in pupil admissions or teacher employment. Meanwhile, all state funded community schools are supposed to provide daily worship of a broadly Christian character, despite Britain having become religiously diverse.’

‘If the Government is serious about ensuring schools uphold individual rights and promote the cohesiveness of British society then it must not just articulate a clearer message, but align words and actions. This must include addressing the numerous ways in the which the school system currently facilitates religious discrimination and inequality.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Accord depends on your support

Please give.

Sign up

find us on Facebook

News history