The NEU union conference passed an emergency motion in defence of LGBT+ inclusive relationship and sex (RSE) education.
It comes after some schools in Birmingham dropped LGBT+ lessons at amid parent protests. It also follows high-profile Tories, such as Andrea Leadsom, making homophobic comments about education.
The motion said the NEU “should oppose any attempts to go back to the days of Section 28”. This saw teachers banned from portraying same-sex relationships as equal with heterosexual relationships.
Annette Pryce from the union’s national executive committee (NEC) moved the motion. She said not teaching about LGBT+ relationships meant giving children “an untrue version of the world we live in”.
“It’s 2019 not 1987,” she said. “We need to send the right message. This time this generation won’t grow up in ignorance and shame. We will make sure we bring together communities, rather than push them apart.
“LGBT+ RSE is here to stay and we won’t let our young people down this time.”
Debs Gwynn from the NEC seconded the motion. “Every student and every member of staff should feel free from fear in schools. That is our starting point. We are celebrating diversity and difference. RSE is about discussing and making people feel that they belong.”
She said some have tried to seize on the fact that some Muslims have protested against LGBT+ RSE to whip up Islamophobia. “There is an issue in Birmingham and Manchester,” she said.
“But this is not about race or religion or Islamophobia. This is about right wing groups taking up a campaign against the LGBT+ community and the Muslim community. We stand together and fight the real enemy – the far right.”
An amendment was passed calling for the government to make “teaching about LGBT+ relationships compulsory at all stages of the curriculum”.
It also said that the teaching of RSE must not be linked to the Prevent strategy or to “British values”.
Kauser Jan from Leeds said that good RSE “needs to be compulsory for all—no ifs, no buts”.
Doug Morgan from Birmingham told delegates, “The protests at Birmingham schools have been homophobic, whether this has been driven by faith or concerns about age-appropriate education.
“All schools should teach about all parts of our community.
“The government has said LGBT+ education will not be compulsory in primary schools. Why should inclusive education be optional?”
He said some parents had suffered Islamophobia but said this “cannot be solved with homophobia”. He said union activists in Birmingham have organised to argue with parents about the need for LGBT+ RSE and to bust myths about what it means.
Katherine Harris from Barnet pointed out, “There are lots and lots and lots of Muslims who are LGBT+.”
She said the row over LGBT+ RSE shouldn’t be used to paint religion as the problem. “I feel some religious groups are being set against the LGBT community,” she said.
“There are lots of progressive people from religious backgrounds and we need to give them our solidarity.”
School workers are set to hold a ballot for a boycott of the hated Sats tests. NEU union members passed a motion calling for a ballot of all primary school members “for a boycott of all high stakes, summative testing within primary schools for the academic year 2019/2020”.
The ballot is set to take place in England in the autumn of this year. The motion was narrowly passed, by 56.13 percent in favour and 43.87 percent against.
Many delegates, including Socialist Workers Party members, argued that the timescale makes winning a 50 percent turnout difficult.
There were fears that failing to meet the turnout would demoralise campaigners. But there is also widespread anger at the impact of Sats on children and a clear mood to resist them.
An amendment proposed by the union’s executive, arguing that a ballot was “not currently the most appropriate tactic” was lost.
Fran is a primary school teacher in south London. She told Socialist Worker, “We need to go all-out to win this ballot. Activists need to hold school-based meetings to discuss the ballot, and we also need to get into schools that don’t yet have NEU reps.
“We need to encourage more people to become reps in their schools to build the ballot. And we need to involve parents with meetings and rallies.”
The union’s national executive committee was set to meet during conference to discuss an action plan to build the ballot. It will be critical for teachers to move quickly after the Easter break to organise meetings and kick start the ballot campaign.
The NEU union conference voted to affiliate to Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), Love Music Hate Racism, and Hope Not Hate. A motion passed condemning rising Islamophobia, antisemitism and the impact of the Tories’ “hostile environment”.
Fay from east London told conference about the SUTR mobilisations that Redbridge NEU has supported.
She spoke about the need to build on successes such as the 200,000-strong protest against the far right AfD in Germany.
Following the vote, joint NEU general secretary Kevin Courtney said the union would give “clear guidance to schools” about tackling racism.
He said schools are “well placed to reinforce the importance of a tolerant and inclusive society”. But he added, “Schools cannot control what happens outside of the school gates and government needs radical policies to reduce the stark inequality which we know exists in society.”
Around 170 people attended an SUTR fringe meeting. Former teacher Jo Lang spoke about Blair Peach, who died 40 years ago this month after being attacked by the cops on an anti-fascist protest.
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