Socialist Worker

Bigots organise to block new relationships and sex lessons

Primary schools must teach relationships lessons, and secondary schools relationships and sex lessons, from September. Tomáš Tengely-Evans looks at the battles over the new guidelines

Issue No. 2686

A protest to defend LGBT+ education

A protest in London to defend LGBT+ education (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Bigots are organising to scupper the rollout of LGBT+ equality lessons in schools.

Schools across England will be required to hold LGBT+ inclusive education from September.

And schools have been encouraged to bring in lessons sooner after MPs overwhelmingly passed new regulations last April.

Protests by mainly Muslim parents in Birmingham forced one school to temporarily drop LGBT+ equality lessons and subjected another to weeks of disruption.

It comes alongside campaigns by some Catholic and Christian organisations to stop the rollout of the lessons. In Glasgow, Catholic Family Voice was launched to campaign to find a “workable solution” to the “changes in the curriculum”.

In secondary schools, the new guidelines will include lessons on consent, LGBT+ families, safeguarding, online friendships, unhealthy relationships, sexting and pornography.

It’s a step in the right direction, but the lessons should go further.

The actions in Birmingham were sometimes organised by conservatives with little or no connection to the school.

Now the managements of two state-funded Jewish schools in north London are trying to pressure parents to “prevent” compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).

One email to parents at Lubavitch Senior Girls’ School said, “Please exercise your right to prevent it being taught by responding to this email and saying that you do not wish your daughters to receive lessons in RSE.”

Widespread 

Bigots know that an all-out assault on the lessons wouldn’t get widespread support.

So they frame the argument in terms of “listening to legitimate concerns” of parents or look for loopholes to undermine the legislation (see below).

One mother at Lubavitch Senior Girls’ School said the email was “designed to put a stop to RSE being taught” altogether.

“The fact that people with different sexualities exist in the world is something that they don’t want to expose their children to,” she said.

“I don’t think they want to expose them to the concept of sex.”

The bigots aren’t just objecting to the inclusion of LGBT+ relationships in the curriculum, but the entire idea of discussing sexuality.

The Stop RSE campaign group blasted the inclusion of the topics of masturbation and sexual pleasure in the curriculum framework.

And a leaflet handed out in east London said the new lessons would mean children in infant schools would be “encouraged to masturbate”.

But children and young people should have the right to receive education about the broadest range of RSE topics.

The lessons are vital for children to feel supported, including those who are both LGBT+ and Jewish or LGBT+ and Muslim.

Parents should not be allowed to withdraw their children from them.


Tory rules could see children withdrawn from school

Tories hide their bigotry behind the language of “parent choice”.

Dominic Hinds—education secretary when the new regulations were being drawn up—suggested LGBT+ equalities teaching could be watered down.

And right wing Tory Andrea Leadsom said parents should “choose the moment at which their children become exposed to that information”.

So it’s little surprise that the Tories’ draft regulations on how schools should teach RSE and LGBT+ equalities contain loopholes that bigots could use.

The document says, “Parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE.

“Before granting any such request it would be good practice for the head teacher to discuss the request with parents and, as appropriate, with the child.

“Once those discussions have taken place, except in exceptional circumstances, the school should respect the parents’ request to withdraw the child, up to and until three terms before the child turns 16.”

Primary schools will only be required to teach relationships education.

But schools also have the ability to decide the point at which they “consider it appropriate to teach their pupils about LGBT+”.

And “schools are free to determine how” they “ensure that the content is fully integrated into their programmes of study”.


Opposition isn’t about Prevent

Protests by mainly Muslim parents in Birmingham forced LGBT+ equality lessons onto the political agenda.

Parkfield Community School, a primary school in the Alum Rock area, dropped its “No Outsiders” programme last spring.

It has since reinstated the LGBT+ lessons that are taught as part the Equality Act 2010.

Action spread to Anderton Park Primary School—which was subjected to weekly protests until a High Court ban.

Tories lent on Birmingham school to suspend LGBT+ lessons
Tories lent on Birmingham school to suspend LGBT+ lessons
  Read More

Organisers Amir Ahmed and Shakeel Afsar were keen to link their protests to the Islamophobic “Prevent” programme.

The British state’s terror strategy forces public sector bodies, such as schools, to spy on Muslims for signs of “radicalisation”.

LGBT+ lessons should not be linked to Prevent or framed in terms of “British values”.

But Ahmed made clear his real agenda, saying, “We do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have.

“This is about proselytising homosexuality to young children.”


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.