Schools OUT UK has been involved with ‘No Outsiders’ since its inception and has supported its vital work. We have worked since 1974 to make LGBT+ people in all their diversity visible and safe by educating OUT prejudice.
We created LGBT+ History Month in 2004, and produced The Classroom website which has over free 80 lesson plans on it that usualise LGBT issues across the curriculum for all ages. These and the ‘No Outsiders’ resources enable teachers to comply with the Equality Act, and more importantly the Public Duty, which requires schools to:
- Eliminate conduct that is prohibited by the Act (that is discrimination, harassment and victimisation),
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it,
- Foster good relations across all characteristics – between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
Given the rise of hate crime since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the consistent existence of homophobic behaviour in schools, the high numbers of attempted suicide of LGBT youth and the disproportionate number of LGBT youth who are homeless, our work in schools is vital. It should be clear that what we are doing is totally age appropriate and though the press would have you believe differently, the main objective of our work is to enable students to recognise the full diversity of the population they are living in and dispel negative stereotypes. By using books that usualise LGBT+ people we are doing exactly the same as ensuring all the books we use do not solely represent white people.
Making the curriculum inclusive we are both educating people about the existence of others and ensuring that any children of LGBT+ parents/family can feel recognised and celebrated.
Our work has been based on the premise that we cannot just challenge homophobia but we need to work with all oppressed groups and need to challenge institutional prejudice and ensure that we work cooperatively to challenge groups that are using this event to stir up homophobia and islamophobia.
Mohammed Amin MBE has also considered the matter in detail. He believes parents have rights, but so do children.
All free societies recognise that parents have the right to raise children in accordance with the parents’ religious beliefs and values. Denying that would vitiate freedom of religion or belief.
However, all children also have fundamental human rights, which the state must protect, even against the wishes of their parents. For example, parents are normally free to take medical decisions on behalf of their children. However, the UK government will mandate a blood transfusion for a child even if the parents, for example in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe a blood transfusion to be religiously prohibited.
Another example is the child’s right to education, which parents are not permitted to deny. That is why education is compulsory. Recently, we have seen very conservative Jewish, Christian, and Muslim schools attempting to avoid teaching children about evolution or attempting to present creationism in science lessons as an acceptable account of human origins. The state quite rightly takes severe action against such attempts.
The most recent controversy concerns relationships education for primary school children. The state considers, in my view correctly, that all children have the right to learn that in our society some people are LGBT, and that members of families which have two fathers or two mothers have the same inherent right to equality and human respect as members of families with a mother and a father, or families with a single parent.
The state’s requirement for this to be taught to all primary school children however outrages some very conservative Jewish, Christian, or Muslim parents. They consider such teaching incompatible with their religious belief that homosexual or lesbian relations are a major sin.
While education is compulsory, the law has always accepted that one part of the school curriculum, Religious Education, is different and that the parents’ own right to freedom of religion and belief requires the state to permit parents to withdraw their children from Religious Education in school.
When sex education was introduced into the curriculum, my understanding is that a parental right of withdrawal from sex education was introduced alongside it.
Following the enactment of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, The Department for Education (DfE) has carried out a consultation which included consideration of the right of withdrawal from sex education. In February 2019, the DfE indicated that an absolute right of withdrawal from sex education at primary school would continue, but that at secondary school parents could only make a request for withdrawal from sex education up to and until the last three terms before the child reached the age of 16. Furthermore, at secondary school head teachers would have the power to reject such parental requests if they considered rejection appropriate.
However, I understand that there is not presently any right of withdrawal from relationships education, and the DfE does not plan any right of withdrawal from relationships education once the law is modified by statutory instrument to take account of the Children and Social Work Act 2017.
I believe that every child should be taught in school to understand the world as it is. There are people who are LGBT, and such people have always existed throughout human history. While most people are not LGBT, those who are LGBT have the same human rights as those who are not.
importantly, any child who themselves may be LGBT has the right to be taught in school that, although they are part of a minority, they are not “un-natural” or “deviant” but instead part of a minority that has always existed, and that they are entitled to the same respect as any other human being.
Obviously, all such teaching should be given in a way that is age appropriate, taking account of the best possible pedagogic understanding.
An Ofsted spokesperson said:
“We support the right of school leaders to determine the curriculum as they see fit and in the interests of their pupils – free from hostile outside influence. All schools have a responsibility to prepare children for life in modern Britain and that includes encouraging respect for those who are different, for instance LGBT people or those of different faiths.”