A coalition of religious and secular groups has warned that the government is allowing primary schools to “edit LGBT people out” by watering down guidance on sex education.
Education secretary Damian Hinds launched a consultation on changes to relationships and sex education in schools in March, which closed today with more than 8,000 responses.
Relationship and sex education will be compulsory in all secondaries from 2020 but the draft guidance says schools will be left "free to determine how they address LGBT-specific content".
It says schools should teach "sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way", and secondaries "should teach young people to understand human sexuality".
But the guidance does not mandate teaching about LGBT relationships and gives no guidance for primaries - a decision the Accord Coalition says “risks allowing primary schools to edit LGBT people out”.
Its chair, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said the government “is now yielding to those who wish for especially primary schools to be able to pretend LGBT people do not exist”.
“This is a worrying move, which represents a watering down on earlier commitments," he added. "Schools are settings where a great deal of LGBT bullying still takes places.
"If we are to create and safeguard the conditions in society where LGBT people live free from discrimination, stigma or prejudice then all schools should promote the acceptance of LGBT people.”
Since the Equality Act was passed in 2010, both state and independent schools have been required to teach about alternative lifestyles and sexualities to meet inspection standards.
Ofsted has rebuked schools for not taking an inclusive approach, including an independent Orthodox Jewish Schools which redacted their history textbooks to remove references to gay victims of the Holocaust.
In January, Nick Gibb assured MPs that the new guidelines would be LGBT-inclusive and “should ensure that young people learn that there are different types of relationships”.
Earlier this month The Sunday Times reported that civil servants were "understood to have made it clear that independent primary schools will no longer be failed by inspectors" for not teaching about "alternative lifestyles”.
Nearly a third said staff in faith schools never challenge discriminatory language against them, more than 10 per cent higher than in non-faith schools, and were also more likely to tolerate bullying of LGBT people.
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.