Hinds' guidance won't stop LGBT protests, warns head

Exclusive: Birmingham headteacher at centre of storm says new guidance still leaves it down to schools to decide when to teach LGBT

John Roberts

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson says DfE guidance will not stop LGBT protests

A headteacher whose school is facing protests about LGBT teaching has said the government’s new relationship education guidance does not go far enough and will not stop demonstrations taking place.

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, the headteacher of Anderton Park Primary, in Birmingham, told Tes that the education secretary Damian Hinds is still leaving it up to schools to decide when they should teach children about LGBT families.

The Department for Education has published final guidance for relationship education today and Mr Hinds has said he "strongly encourages" primary schools to discuss with children that there are families with same-sex parents.

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It follows controversy over ongoing LGBT protests outside two Birmingham primaries and calls for ministers to give stronger support to these schools.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson said:  "I welcome Damian Hinds almost unequivocal support for inclusive teaching today and am very happy that this is a step forward.

"Yet I think it leaves a weakness. Mr Hinds says that he would ‘strongly encourage schools to discuss with children in class that there are all sorts of different, strong and loving families, including families with same-sex parents, while they are at primary school'.

“But what if a school or governing body chooses to ignore this advice?”

Despite Mr Hinds’ message of support to primary schools today, the guidance on LGBT teaching in relationship education remains exactly the same as the department’s draft guidance from earlier this year.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson said she thought the guidance published today still placed the decision on when to teach LGBT on schools.

She told Tes: “I don’t think this guidance will help us stop protests.

“In one area it says that in primary schools ‘teaching about families requires sensitive and well-judged teaching and that families can include, for example, single-parent families and LGBT parents’ which means that primary schools should be teaching LGBT.

“But then in other areas of the guidance, it fudges it and says  ‘schools are free to determine how they do this, and we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area of the curriculum’.  Well, what does at a timely point mean? That could mean giving them a leaflet at the end of Year 6.

“Michael Gove said that he would make it clear that teaching children at primary school about LGBT families was a government requirement and Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have made similar statements. Damian Hinds' words today fall short of that.”

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson has previously accused the DfE of adding to protests by sending out mixed messages about what is expected of primary schools.

She told the NAHT headteachers' union conference earlier this year that a  "frequently asked questions" section about its plans for compulsory relationships education on the DfE website said there was "no specific requirement" for primary schools to teach LGBT content.

She told heads this had been used by protestors outside her primary to object to the school's teaching.

Earlier today the NAHT backed the DfE’s new guidance and welcomed Mr Hinds' comments.

General secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The secretary of state has now made it abundantly clear that it is appropriate to teach primary-age children that there are different kinds of relationships, and that not every family is the same.”

Relationships education will become compulsory for primary-age pupils, and relationships and sex education (RSE) will become compulsory for secondary-age pupils, from September 2020.

Health education will also become mandatory for all pupils in state-funded schools from the same date. 

The DfE has been approached for a comment.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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