From September 2019, sex education and relationship classes which are sensitive to developing sexuality and identity, will become a statutory requirement for children in Primary and Secondary schools in the UK. In other words, teaching in this subject area must be inclusive, equal and need to integrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues along with heterosexuality.
Previous research conducted by the Department of Education
Opposition to LGBT issues being taught in schools can come from parents, religious groups and political parties. Concerns may arise from Christian and Muslim faith values which oppose same sexed relationships and transgender identity. Other views consist of fears around the teaching of younger children about same sexed relationships and transgender issues leading to an increase in related practices. Despite genetic research suggesting that education involving LGBT issues has no influence on sexual orientation and gender identification on pupils, resistance in pockets around the country remain.
One school in Birmingham with a large Muslim community has hit the headlines due to ongoing parental demonstrations against LGBT teaching. The government has since been criticized for its lack of involvement and support to its head teachers during the prolonged dispute. Sara Khan, who became a government adviser in January 2018, informed the BBC’s Panorama:
“I think they were too slow to respond. There’s a lot of confusion about what’s actually being taught and I think Department of Education could have played a very important role in clarifying to parents this is what’s actually being taught, not the misinformation that we’re seeing out there. It’s a mob chanting and shouting and engaging in intimidating and threatening behaviour. And I think we have to recognise that and call it out for what it is.”
Equality is fundamental to our society and education is pivotal in the reduction of peer victimization due to any difference in an individual. Promotion of well being for all must involve equality and diversity in education as views formed as children go beyond into adulthood. However, working together and communicating the details regarding how LGBT issues are taught is vital for all but most importantly for children.
A handbook, produced by the charity Stonewall and sponsored by the education company Pearson, gives practical examples about how teachers across different subjects can tweak their lessons so LGBT students “see themselves represented in what they’re learning”. Suggestions include setting questions referencing same-sex couples in maths and science, and introducing LGBT-specific vocabulary in language lessons. In a foreword to the guide, Stonewall’s chief executive Ruth Hunt says that while Britain has made “huge strides” towards LGBT equality in recent years, and "anti-LGBT bullying and language unfortunately remain commonplace in Britain’s schools”.
“A crucial part of tackling this problem is delivering a curriculum that includes LGBT people and their experiences,” she adds.
According to a survey by the charity, 43 per cent of LGBT pupils say they don’t feel part of their school community – and two in five report that they are never taught anything about LGBT matters in school and college.
“When LGBT people and their experiences aren’t discussed at school, it gives the impression that LGBT people don’t exist, or that these issues shouldn’t be discussed at school,” the guide states.