More than 50 faith leaders, non-religious groups, educationists, and LGBT rights advocates have come together to urge the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds to ensure independent schools, including faith schools, are required to teach respect for LGBT individuals and groups in line with the Equality Act 2010.
The coalition – which consists of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Humanists UK, The Independent Schools Association, The National Education Union, UCL Institute of Education and representatives from across the faith spectrum, including Judaism, Islam and the Church of England – are concerned that the Department for Education may change proposed advice for independent schools, and in particular conservative faith schools, on the requirement to teach respect for LGBT rights as part of the new guidance on Independent School Standards.
Department For Education: Schools Must Encourage Respect For All People
The Department for Education guidance, states: “The requirement is that the PHSE curriculum must be designed to encourage respect for other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. It is not sufficient for a school to say that it meets this standard because its curriculum encourages respect for all people in a general way; that is not
paying particular regard to protected characteristics.”
The requirement is that the PHSE curriculum must be designed to encourage respect for other people, with particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.
Guidance on Independent School Standards issued by the Department for Education
The guidance outlines the specific protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010 – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation – that are required to be incorporated into the personal, health, social and economic education (PHSE) curriculum.
However the guidance has been met with strong criticism by faith groups, who argue that being forced to teach respect for same-sex relationships violates parents’ human rights and the Human Rights Act, in particular Article 9 of the Human Rights Convention, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Challenging LGBT Discrimination In Schools, ‘Fundamental To Equality’
Credit: Flickr Lewisham Dreamer
In a joint open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, the alliance of faith leaders, educationists and LGBT rights advocates, have highlighted that diluting the Department for Education guidance could lead to bullying of LGBT pupils.
“This [diluting the guidance] 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 percent 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.”
Research shows that 45 percent of LGBT pupils are subject to bullying because of their identity, and the majority hear discriminatory language in school.
Joint letter to Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds
The letter also points out that being LGBT does not bar you from belonging to a certain faith group or practising a religion of your choice, and that being aware of these rights, should be part of education in schools.
“It’s also 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.”
A Thorny Issue: Parents Raise Concerns
Credit: Unsplash Neon Brand
Last month over 400 parents signed a petition calling for the teaching of an LGBT equality education program to be dropped from a state primary school in Birmingham. The parents, largely of Muslim faith, claimed it was inappropriate and children were too young to be learning about same-sex relationships. They said the school was not respecting the values of the pupils and their parents’ faith and community.
In November 2018 a Christian parent complained against a school because her child allegedly took part in a gay pride event organised by the school.
World First As Scotland Introduces LGBTI-Inclusive Education
Credit: Flickr Scottish Government
In November 2018, ministers in Scotland announced the introduction LGBTI-inclusive education, in state schools throughout Scotland in what is believed to be a world first.
Jordan Daly, co-founder of campaign group Time For Inclusive Education (TIE), which has fought for the introduction of LGBTI-inclusive education in Scotland for three years, said: “We are delighted that LGBTI inclusive education will now become a reality in all of Scotland’s state schools.
“This is a monumental victory for our campaign and a historic moment for our country. This sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland.”
This sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland.
Jordan Daly, co-founder of the campaign group, Time For Inclusive Education
He added: “Eighteen years from the repeal of Section 28, we can finally put its destructive legacy to bed.
— TIE (@tiecampaign) November 8, 2018