Amazing how easy it is to confuse a sensitive issue like relationship education despite the fact that “The DfE said the schools can teach LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) content but do not have to”!
Very interesting that the Ofsted, whose prime job is to evaluate the work rather than determine the work of the school and that had previously given biased statements, was at the recent private meeting of some Birmingham headteachers who grumbled about the lack of government support for the challenges they face in teaching LGBT contents.
Also strange is the headteachers assertion that the relationship education, including the LGBT content, is strictly within the scope of the Equality Act 2010 that aims to protect people from discrimination in the workplace and applies to schools and academies. And then they expressed their frustration over a lack of clarity and support by the government for ‘equality’ teaching.
On the other hand, hundreds of parents in the north and south of England, mostly Muslims, have protested that their children should not to be taught about same-sex relationships or same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.
Unbelievable that instead of clearly and calmly smoothing out parents concerns and perceptions about the controversial relationship education, tension has been created by taking parents reservation regarding the LGBT teaching as a token of discrimination against LGBT and which somehow endangers LGBT protection!
If the headteachers concern is really about the equality teaching, then they should be teaching to treat different groups of people equally well rather than promoting their vision of relationship education (including the LGBT content) through the sugar coated so called ‘community cohesion’ programme devised by their deputy headteacher.
Rather unfortunate that some Birmingham schools have not come out of the Tim Brighouse era (Tim Brighouse, Birmingham’s chief education officer 1993-2002) where schools were used for educational experiments or to complete post-graduate thesis, helped by the fact that many schools were mostly populated by first generation of simple-minded Asians who could not resist the use of their schools in this way.
For example, it was interesting to find some primary schools not having any rewards/punishment schemes as the headteacher did not believe in developing a sense of winning/losing at such an early age. Another example was the teaching of Russian language as a part of modern foreign languages in a secondary school, sold to parents that this helps understanding the world better!
Things have changed since. Now the British born second and third generation parents are aware of their rights as parents and have the determination and skills to persue their rights.
Tension between the Birmingham parents and schools last surfaced when the bogus ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal escalated due to poor handling by the then education secretary Michael Gove, known for his apparent Islamophobic undertones in his book, Celsius 7/7, which resulted in public argument between him and the then home secretary Theresa May as to who should deal with the perceived ‘extremism’ and the solution was the Theresa May’s discredited Prevent duty for the schools.
The headteachers are best placed to appreciate that what is taught is important but in what context it is taught is equally, or more, important. Also important is the language of discourse in teaching sensitive subjects like same-sex relationships.
For example, the LGBT contents could be taught in either of the following context, depending on the nature of the school population and their values:
- Same sex relationships, including living as a couple, is normal
- Some believe that same sex relationships, including living as a couple, is normal
- Some religions/cultures don’t believe in same sex relationships, including living as a couple
A right context for teaching LGBT content in line with parents expressed wishes/ belief falls well within the scope of equality and could win many parents.
Schools do use such a contextualisation in other teaching situations: for example, when teaching Islam as a part of the religious education, God’s Oneness is not taught as absolute but that the Muslims believe in Allah’s Oneness, and this is done in view of valuing those who do not believe in God. Does such teaching breach the equality code and make Muslims less protected?
In any case, would the Muslim teachers uneasy about teaching LGBT contents be excused in the same way as others who feel less comfortable teaching sex education are excused?
Sad that rather than finding a peaceful educationally valid and professionally sound solution to parents reservation about the same-sex education, swords have been drawn to create negative image of the protesting parents as if they hinder ‘equality teaching’.
Not only this, but Ofsted, scaremongering that parents objection to this specific relationship teaching endangers the protection of LGBT, recycled by far right elements and unhelpful media have been most damaging.
Ofsted has further fuelled by asserting that all children must learn about same sex couples regardless of their religious background, defying the DfE clear directive that “the schools can teach LGBT content but do not have to” (protesting parents could quote this all the time)!
Ofsted say they have to ensure that schools are doing their legal duty. While Ofsted ensures that schools are doing their duty in teaching sensitive issues like LGBT contents, they could evaluate how and in what context these are taught. For example, within the scope of equality duty, equality-caring schools issue a list of LGBT modules for parents to tick choice – a good equality practice.
Very worrying that Ofsted seems to have a needle for Muslim culture and values under its present leadership!
Added to this dim picture is the plight of Muslim MPs and councillors who can’t support parents protest against the blunt teaching of same-sex relationships as they can’t break ranks with their respective political parties that have calculated their votes and value the LGBT vote bank. However, what these helpless politicians could do is to challenge the context within which the LGBT content is/would be taught.