School's blessing for civil partners

A primary teacher delighted her pupils and colleagues by announcing that she and her partner would be among the first couples to enter into a civil partnership.

Cindylou Turner, Year 6 teacher at St Mark's Church of England primary, Surrey, was due to "marry" her police officer partner, Charlotte Taylor, yesterday. They would have been among 600 couples, including Elton John and his partner, to take part in a ceremony that will give them similar rights to heterosexual married couples.

Ms Turner first "came out" to her Y6 pupils this year during circle-time discussion about families. At the end of term, they surprised her with a home-made card in the shape of a pink princess. Staff presented her with a crystal vase.

"A lot of teachers aren't out," she said. "But I feel very passionately that if we are not open in front of pupils, then how are we going to help them cope with homophobic bullying? It's fundamentally important to me that I do not lie to the children. I don't try to sell my sexuality, but I hope to influence pupils to respect people's life choices.

"Equality and diversity are important parts of school life."

The two women were due to exchange vows in matching aqua-coloured outfits - Ms Turner in velvet, her partner in brocade. A special order of service was planned for their friends' children, with less text and space for drawings.

Christina Albrecht, St Mark's head, is delighted for Ms Turner.

"The fact that Cindylou is a good teacher is what matters to me," she said.

"Her sexuality is immaterial. She's got a loving partner, and that's wonderful.

"I stand by equality in everything we do. We all come from different places. Hooray, we have a proper representation of the world outside on our staff."

Paul Patrick, co-chair of Schools Out, which represents lesbian, gay and bisexual teachers, hopes government guidelines will be published to help schools to teach about same-sex partnerships.

"This could be a God-sent opportunity," he said. "A change is occurring in society.

"At the moment, schools rarely educate against homophobia. This shows that lesbian and gay relationships are part of the fabric of society."

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