LGBT protests: Heads urge DfE to give stronger support

Headteachers says primary schools should be backed to decide 'when and not if' they teach LGBT lessons

John Roberts

The NAHT has said the DfE need to provide stronger support to primary schools over the teaching of LGBT

Headteachers have urged ministers to give a stronger message to primary schools over teaching children about LGBT relationships.

The NAHT headteachers' union has raised concern about education secretary Damian Hinds telling heads that primary schools “are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so”. 

The union’s general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “We’d like the ‘if’ changed to ‘when’ " to make it clear that primary schools are right to teach children about LGBT people.

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The NAHT is urging the Department for Education to do more after schools in Birmingham have experienced weeks of escalating protests over LGBT teaching.

He said: “Without meaning to, the government has put school leaders in an extremely difficult position. They and their staff have had to endure threats against their careers and their personal safety. 

“The protests need to end, and the best way to achieve that is for the government to be absolutely clear about what they expect schools to do.”

The government is introducing compulsory relationship education for primary schools and relationship and sex education for secondary schools from 2020.

The NAHT said the guidance for primary schools published by the DfE says relationship education will include LGBT content but it wants a stronger message of support to back this up.

The heads' union has produced a briefing on LGBT lessons which it is launching today.

The event is being attended by Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, the head of Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham which has been at the heart of a legal battle in an attempt to stop protestors gathering outside the school.

Andrew Moffat will also be attending. He developed the No Outsiders programme at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham which sparked a series of LGBT protests.

The NAHT said their briefing document calls for clarity from the DfE in three areas:

  • Relationships education in primary schools must be inclusive and treat the different types of relationships in our society equally, reflecting their equal status under the law to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.
  • Relationships education in primary schools will include LGBT content as set out in the statutory guidance that has already been published.
  • School leaders and their teams should receive the full support of the government when delivering relationships education.

In a letter from Mr Hinds to Mr Whiteman earlier this year the education secretary had said that the primary schools were enabled and encouraged to teach LGBT content "if" they considered it age appropriate.

Mr Whiteman said the DfE needs to change the message from if to when.

He added: “We need to get this sorted by the end of term, as many schools will be adopting the new curriculum in September, and we don’t want children to experience any more protests.”

Schools standards minister Nick Gibb gave the strongest signal of support for schools in the LGBT protests last week when he described the situation the schools were facing as “bizarre and horrific".

He said: "The protests outside a primary school in Birmingham which teaches the fact that same-sex relationships are normal and are as loving and supportive as any heterosexual relationship are in my view wrong.”

An interim injunction banning protesters objecting to LGBT teaching at Anderton Park primary from demonstrating outside will remain in place ahead of a full trial on the issue, a judge has ruled.

Lawyers for the protesters brought a legal challenge on Monday against Birmingham City Council after the local authority successfully applied for an injunction on 31 May.

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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