Schools will be backed on LGBT lessons, says Williamson

However, the education secretary appears to have stopped short of saying that primaries must cover same-sex relationships

Tes Reporter

A demonstration about relationships education took place outside a primary school in Nottingham.

Every school will receive backing from the government on teaching pupils about same-sex relationships, the education secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson said headteachers should be “able to teach about Britain as it is today”.

News: LGBT school protests back over No Outsiders resumption

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Before schools broke up for the summer holidays, there were high-profile anti-LGBT protests outside primary schools where protesters and counter-demonstrators clashed over the teaching of different relationships.

Mr Williamson said that the government had set out the legal expectations “quite clearly” for schools when delivering relationships education, which will be compulsory for schools from September 2020.

However, the education secretary appears to have stopped short of saying that primaries have to cover same-sex relationships.

The former education secretary Damian Hinds was accused of leaving headteachers “hung out to dry” after repeatedly avoiding saying that primary schools must cover same-sex relationships. 

The accusation came from Claire Evans, deputy head of Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham, a school which saw weeks of protests against LGBT lessons before the summer.

And Mr Williamson said he had no plans to visit Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, headteacher at Anderton Park, who has previously spoken of the abuse she has suffered during protests over the issue.

In June, Ms Hewitt-Clarkson called on Mr Hinds to visit her to discuss government policy on relationships and LGBT education in schools.

Speaking at the time, she said: "The importance of this goes beyond Anderton Park, it goes beyond protests on my pavements – it's a British law issue."

Both Anderton Park and Parkfield Community Primary schools in Birmingham witnessed weeks of noisy protests outside their gates, while there was a separate demonstration outside Nottingham's Fernwood Primary just before schools broke up.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson has previously said there was a danger of the protests spreading without more government support for schools, although the Department for Education has said it has been working "very closely" with heads on the issue.

Parkfield school suspended its No Outsiders equality education programme during talks with parents and mediators.

In July, it announced that it would teach a modified version of the programme from September after consultation with parents.

The scheme was developed by Andrew Moffat, assistant head at Parkfield, to teach children about equality and diversity in modern society.

But protesters claimed lessons about relationships had not been "age appropriate" and were "over-emphasising a gay ethos".

LGBT campaigners have branded the demonstrations "homophobic".

In June, the DfE published guidance that encouraged schools to adopt the new curriculum on relationships education from September ahead of its mandatory roll-out next year.

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

In some of his first remarks as education secretary, Mr Williamson said there is no place for protests at school gates.

He said: "Firstly, we shouldn't be seeing protests outside any schools.

"We want to make sure all pupils, parents and teachers are able to go to those schools freely without any form of intimidation.

"We will be there supporting and backing every single school – that's what we have been doing.”

"The purpose of it is we wanted to make sure every single school is able to teach about Britain as it is today – but also have the flexibility to ensure that it has an understanding of the communities which it operates in."

Asked if he had arranged to meet Ms Hewitt-Clarkson, Mr Williamson said: "What we're doing is we've been very focused in making sure that we deliver financial settlement in terms of every single school across this country.

"We've set out quite clearly in terms of legislation and in terms of delivery of sex and relationship education and that's there for all schools to deliver and will be rolled out over the coming year."

Again asked whether he would be meeting Anderton Park's headteacher, he added: "As I said, we've made it quite clear as to what is needed to be done."

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