Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Government Compromises on Sex and Relationships Education

Ed Balls has had to defend the amendments to the S&RE education proposals in the face of criticism from the pressure group ACCORD.

The proposals, which will go before the House today, will make S&RE a subject to be taught statutorily in all schools and will remove the get-out clause from pupils over 15. It will also enforce objective teaching and information giving about LGB relationships, as well as contraception and abortion. In the face of pressure from some religious lobbyists, however, faith schools are exempt from certain provisions in the proposals, which will allow them to express their religious convictions, including the right to say that homosexuality is wrong.

ACCORD, a group of religious, secular and trades union stakeholders in education, say that this will water down the provisions of the Bill and thereby fuel homophobia, to which the Department of Children Schools and Families has retorted that it will be illegal to teach homophobia in schools.

Schools OUT's Tony Fenwick says: "These amendments are an appeasement: a compromise. While we welcome the fact that no state school can get out of teaching Sex and Relationships education or cherry-pick the aspects it wants to teach, we are disappointed that they can play the faith card and tell LGB children that what they are thinking and feeling is wrong. To my knowledge there is no other area of the curriculum in which headteachers and teachers are permitted to make subjective judgements.

"And don't forget that one-third of the nation's schools are faith schools. We're not talking about handfuls here - nor are we talking about particular branches of the major religions. One-third of the schools in our country can use these amendments to exclude LGB pupils and marginalise them. If that isn't homophobia - what is?

"Furthermore, where does gender variance fit in to all this? Presumably some schools will allow their staff to tell children that changing gender reassignment is wrong too.

"There is guidance on the DCSF website on how to combat homophobia and transphobia in schools and we welcome that. But it is disheartening to hear that the same department is bowing to pressure from some groups who want to preach from the classroom as they do in their places of worship".

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