Primary schools will not be required to teach LGBT issues and this will not change when the new Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) regulations come into force in September 2020, the government has confirmed.
The clarification comes amid protests by mostly Muslim parents at primary schools in Birmingham and other cities over the teaching of LGBT issues to children as young as four, particularly through the controversial ‘No Outsiders’ programme.
Speaking to a Commons debate on parental involvement in the teaching of the Equality Act, schools minister Nick Gibb made clear that schools must consult parents properly on the teaching of RSE and that primary schools may leave the teaching of sensitive LGBT issues to secondary school.
‘This Government agrees that parents, as the primary educators of their children, should be involved in their child’s education in schools,’ the minister said.
‘On matters such as equality, respect and relationships, schools complement what the child is taught at home. It is therefore crucial that schools and parents engage in constructive dialogue to understand each other’s views,’ he added.
‘Schools should in particular consider whether aspects of their curriculum may be sensitive to the parents of their particular cohort and, if so, should ensure that they have properly engaged them on this content,’ he said.
However, Mr Gibb also stressed that ‘schools have been given the responsibility to educate, and ultimately it is for schools to decide what is taught, and how.’
He added that the government ‘strongly encourages primary schools to teach about families with same-sex parents,’ and that in most cases this ‘will be possible.
Clarifying the law, he said: ‘The content of the school curriculum is exempt from the duties imposed on schools by part 6 of the Equality Act,’ thus ensuring that ‘schools are free to include a full range of issues, ideas and materials’ without fear of ‘legal challenge based on a protected characteristic.’
The minister said that some schools ‘choose to teach pupils about the Equality Act and the protected characteristics,’ and in doing so they should ‘of course consider the age appropriateness of all elements of this and plan their curriculum accordingly’.
Mr Gibb referred to the ‘protests from parents relating to the teaching of equality in our schools, with a particular focus on teaching lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender content.’
He said that while ‘the media would like to portray this as religion versus LGBT,’ and that he did not doubt that some people ‘on both sides of the debate, without links to the schools involved, are exploiting the situation due to their own lack of tolerance for the other side,’ he truly believed that ‘for the majority, there is a real respect for their fellow citizens who are different from them.’
However, Education Secretary Damian Hinds insisted he would ‘strongly encourage’ primary schools to teach same-sex relationships.
The Commons debate which took place last Tuesday was opened by Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green, Roger Godsiff, in whose constituency one of the schools at the centre of the protests, Anderton Park, sits.
Mr Godsiff told the chamber that there were 258 primary schools in Birmingham, but that at only two of them had this problem arisen. ‘The common theme that links these two schools,’ he explained, ‘is that parents at both schools were neither consulted nor involved in how the nine protected characteristics [in the Equality Act] were to be imparted to children. Parents were excluded entirely from the process.’
‘The headteacher made it plain that no consultation was going to take place and no collective meetings with parents were held,’ he said.
‘[The headteacher] said that she or her deputy would meet individual parents on a “one-to-one” basis to listen to their concerns, but when such meetings took place the same answer was always given—namely, that the school was only carrying out the Equality Act,’ he added.
Mr Godsiff defended the protestors against their detractors in the media and elsewhere: ‘After each demonstration, the parents had email correspondence with the police superintendent to seek written confirmation that the police were satisfied with the way the protest had been conducted and they asked each time whether any arrests had taken place or cautions been issued,’ he said.
On each occasion the police confirmed that ‘no arrests were made or cautions given,’ with the senior officer confirming that ‘no laws have been broken.’
The protestors, he said, are ‘mostly young mothers who have done nothing wrong. They are good mothers who want to express concern about what their children are telling them.’
Mr Godsiff regretted that the headteacher at Anderton Park had inflamed tensions by tweeting that the parents were a ‘mob’ guilty of ‘homophobic hatred’ which needed to be ‘sorted’. This he said had contributed to a media environment where the parents were ‘smeared’ as ‘professional agitators’.
The debate was an impassioned affair, with a number of openly gay and lesbian MPs taking part. It was highlighted at one point that the UK Parliament has the highest proportion of gay and lesbian members of any in the world.
Angela Eagle, Labour MP for Wallasey, gave a particularly emotional speech which was widely reported in the media. Unfortunately, she used it to repeat defamatory descriptions of the parents as a ‘mob’ who had created ‘a gauntlet of screaming demonstrators’ that was ‘noisy, vociferous, aggressive,’ and ‘traumatic’ for young children. She referred darkly to a ‘network’ behind the protests on the ‘far extremist fundamentalist fringes’ that is making a ‘deliberate, reactionary attempt to take back progressive advance and decency for children.’
Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley, agreed that the protestors were a ‘mob’ on the ‘fringes’ that she did not recognise as the Muslim community she lived amongst – this despite hundreds of children having been kept away from the schools by their parents at certain points during the protests.
Labour MP Stephen Pound concurred that what was going on was unconscionable ‘concentrated mob abuse’.
I hope British Muslims are listening to how their often favoured party of choice refers to some of their concerned young mums and dads in Parliament. Brighton Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle even went so far as to condemn his colleague Roger Godsiff for engaging with the parents, saying he had been ‘deeply wrong’ in ‘pandering to the mob’.
He added that while ‘there is a place for parents’ on the journey of LGBT education, it is ‘not to consult them on whether something should be included in the curriculum or not’ but to educate them and bring them up to the necessary ‘level of education and understanding.’
I’m not sure Mr Russell-Moyle quite understands the concept of consultation, or indeed of parents as primary educators of their children.
Cardiff Labour MP Stephen Doughty complained that the ‘mob’ was taking offence at materials in which in his view nothing ‘could cause offence,’ whilst missing the ‘actual issues’ affecting LGBT children, which is the ‘litany of self-harm, depression and, in the most extreme circumstances, taking one’s own life’.
SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes concurred that we do not want gay children ‘to be bullied, be prejudiced, to self-harm, to take their lives, to go into lives filled with alcohol and drugs, or to kill themselves.’
All of which we can all agree on – all children and young people need support as they navigate the complexities of childhood and adolescence. But there is no reason to think that any of it will be helped by exposing primary school children to LGBT materials. Sadly, all the evidence is that LGBT people experience these things with greater prevalence regardless of how affirming their environment is, as seen in the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
‘Minority stress’ theory – the idea that sexual minorities experience poorer outcomes largely because of their negative experience of being a minority, such as prejudice and discrimination – is currently very popular, but doesn’t hold water when you dig down into the facts.
Numerous MPs in the debate referred on a number of occasions to ‘gay’ or ‘LGBT’ children or school pupils. Yet school children, particularly at primary level, are much too young to be adopting such adult identities and their associated behaviour patterns, particularly as preferences and desires are known to shift considerably over the course of child development. It is also worth noting that sexual orientation is an inherently sexual concept, adding to the inappropriateness of young children engaging with it in any detail.
Some MPs appeared to have disturbingly scant regard for the importance of religious freedom, despite its prominence in both the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act.
Stephen Doughty, for instance, remarked: ‘People are of course entirely free to believe and understand their scriptures and religions in any way they choose in their own private life.’ But, he said, ‘in this country our state sets the law and the guidance.’ He worried that ‘very, very radical activists’ were being allowed to ‘undermine headteachers, to intimidate, and to undermine the overall Government guidance.’
Angela Eagle agreed, saying the government’s clarification of its guidance was an ‘open invitation’ to ‘very radicalised fundamentalist-type campaigns’ to ‘make as much fuss as possible in order to prevent the teaching of LGBT equality and relations’. She added that if the government ‘does not stand up’ to such organisations now they will ‘regret it’.
Mr Russell-Moyle worried that the government was siding with ‘fanatical bigots’ rather than the ‘people with progressive morals that we want to side with.’
That may not sound very much like tolerance. But then a number of MPs were frank that they were no longer interested in tolerance. Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is gay, declared: ‘I have never wanted a tolerant society; I hate the idea of being tolerated. I have always wanted a world and a society that was based on respect.’ Schools minister Nick Gibb agreed, saying ‘what is wanted is not to be tolerated but to be respected.’
I trust that conservatives are paying attention to this new order of things: tolerance is out, respect is in. You must respect gay relationships and transgender lifestyles, and if you don’t you are a fanatical bigot who will not be tolerated.
Inevitably, the Nazis were invoked at one point, with Chris Bryant saying that the present debate ‘hurts so many of us’ because it raises the possibility that LGBT progress could one day be ‘rolled back’ as when the Nazis sent thousands of gay men to concentration camps.
Mr Bryant also spoke candidly of a ‘fight with religion,’ saying that they had ‘had this battle in the Church of England’ but that it was ‘ongoing’ in the Catholic Church. Anglicans may be intrigued to know that MPs consider the battle for LGBT equality won in the Church of England, given that its formal teaching on same-sex marriage is yet to change.
Mr Bryant also mentioned the issue of the ‘terrible pain’ brought to ‘so many individuals by the whole gay conversion therapy theory’, which he hopes will ‘never be a thing of the future’ – once again raising the spectre of a ban on this therapeutic lifeline for many who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Mr Bryant joked that people cannot ‘catch’ homosexuality. Perhaps he is unaware that referrals to the Tavistock Clinic’s Gender Identity Development Service have shot up by 5,000 per cent since 2010, from 50 to more than two and a half thousand each year, with many cases clustering in friendship groups.
Homosexuality, too, has seen a massive increase in prevalence among young people in recent years, with the number of UK 16-24 year olds identifying as LGB increasing by 50 per cent in just three years between 2014 and 2017. This was driven in large part by a doubling of the number identifying as bisexual since 2012. Meanwhile, the number in the same age bracket identifying as ‘other’ sexual orientation more than quadrupled in the same time period.
Moving into overtly theological territory, Mr Bryant expressed his ‘biggest hope’ that ‘Islam will find a way of reconciling itself with the modern era—with the things that we know, which, I would argue, our God has taught us to understand in the last 100 or 200 years about ourselves, about humanity and about human sexuality.’
‘Equality is a seamless garment,’ he averred, warming to his theme. ‘The tunic worn by Christ on the cross was a seamless garment, which is why the soldiers could not tear it apart when He was taken down from the cross. The equality that we demand for people regardless of their religion, or their political allegiance, or the colour of their skin, or their gender must also apply in equal measure—in full and equal measure—to our sexuality.’
Mr Bryant repeated the central dogma of modern sex education, that ‘good sex and relationships education nearly always leads to children delaying their first sexual experience, making fewer risky decisions when they do so and making more informed choice’. This is despite recent studies which show that there is in fact no demonstrable benefit from sex education at all.
Furthermore, the LGBT inclusive sex education now being used in many schools contains details of some high risk sexual practices that no school child of any age should be introduced to, least of all in a context that harnesses school authority to commend them.
Despite appearing to grant the validity of the protestors’ complaints about the lack of consultation and the misleading claims of the school to be doing what the law requires, Mr Gibb said that the government ‘has been clear that protests outside primary schools are unacceptable and should stop.’ Which is all very well for him to say.
But when there is a movement as determined and uncompromising as the one that is presently promoting homosexuality and transgenderism in schools – supported and led by MPs prepared to say some quite extraordinary and defamatory things in the House of Commons about those who resist it – it is hard to see how anything else will get through.
As Lynda Rose, founder of campaign organisation Parent Power rightly observed: ‘I think overall that we’re still left with a confused position, with government broadly supporting LGBT, but not quite daring to dismiss faith protections out of hand.’
Nothing else it seems will be effective in the struggle to safeguard the rights of parents to raise their children according to their own moral, religious and philosophical convictions. Nothing else will safeguard our children from being indoctrinated with the poisonous ideology of the sexual revolutionaries. Parent power is the only thing that works right now.
(Image: Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP. Credit: Policy Exchange/Wikimedia Commons. Image cropped.)