Campaigners have raised concerns that draft guidance for teaching about LGBT issues in independent schools may be watered down.
More than 50 campaigners, including religious leaders, educationists and LGBT rights advocates, have joined forces to write an open letter urging education secretary Damian Hinds not to dilute draft guidance for independent schools on teaching respect for LGBT (lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual) people.
The letter states that any dilution of the guidance “poses a significant safeguarding risk to LGBT young people, who are still subject to significant levels of homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying.”
It adds: “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.”
The letter has been jointly organised by Humanists UK, Sex Education Forum, and the Accord Coalition for inclusive education.
Signatories include joint-general secretaries of the NEU teaching union and the chief executive of the Independent School Association as well as the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National Aids Trust, Faith Matters, and British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
Humanists UK chief executive Andrew Copson said: “It is imperative that LGBT lessons in independent schools are not diluted out of fear that it could offend some religious groups.
“Providing an inclusive education for all pupils, including LGBT students, so that they can learn and develop in freedom, must be the priority for schools and we urge the Department against the watering down of its draft proposals.’
The DfE said the draft guidance had been developed after “a thorough engagement process,” including with LGBT groups, and that a call for evidence had provided more than 23,000 responses, including from young people. It said responses from a consultation on the draft guidance were now being used to shape the final guidance document.
A DfE spokesperson said: “We want all children to grow up to become happy, healthy and safe, which is why we are making Relationships Education compulsory for all primary schools as well as Relationships and Sex Education compulsory for all secondary schools.
“The draft guidance is clear that teaching should look at healthy relationships and that all pupils learn about equality. The draft guidance is also clear that Relationships and Sex Education should be relevant to all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity, in an age-appropriate way.”