Teachers who face protests against LGBT+ lessons must be supported – union

Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent
·3-min read

Teachers and pupils who face protests against LGBT+ inclusive lessons should be fully supported, a union conference has been told.

The National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference heard how parents have opposed schools teaching pupils about LGBT+ relationships and there are “threats” that protests could resume.

A motion passed at the conference called on the union’s executive to “offer full support” to school staff and pupils who face protests against teaching age-appropriate Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).

It noted “the attacks” on RSE and LGBT+ inclusive education in recent years including parental protests which took place outside primary schools in Birmingham and elsewhere across the country.

Bill Stockwell, from Redbridge in east London, said: “LGBT+ students need our support more than ever before and where any students right to an inclusive education is threatened, we must intervene.”

In 2019, some primary schools in Birmingham faced protests at the school gates from parents who opposed allowing children to be taught about the existence of LGBT+ relationships.

Mr Stockwell, who called the protests “truly shocking”, told the conference that a group of parents in his east London district had also opposed LGBT+ content being integrated into the study programme.

He said: “Speaking as an LGBT+ parent, with a daughter in primary school, I say she deserves better than this grudging acceptance of our family.

“She deserves to have her experiences respected and celebrated alongside her peers for more traditional homes.”

Teaching relationships education is compulsory in all state schools in England from this academic year 2020-21 and sex education is mandatory in secondary schools.

As part of the reforms, the Department for Education (DfE) expects secondary schools, state-funded or independent, to deliver teaching on LGBT+ relationships and it encourages primary schools to do so.

Neil Dhanda, also from Redbridge, said: “There should be no retreat over LGBT+ teaching or age-appropriate RSE.

“The union should support and defend educators who come under attack, like those in Birmingham did when they defended the ‘No Outsiders’ initiative.”

Mr Dhanda warned there were “threats that these protests could resume”.

He added: “We need to win people to progressive ideas, and make sure everyone understands what’s being taught in schools, as we do not want this to develop anywhere else.”

But Robert Williams, from Wrexham in Wales, who spoke against the motion, said he believed the language used against parents was “unacceptable”.

He said: “I do feel that there are parents who I believe in my conviction are still the primary educators of their children, that they should have the right to say no.

“I think that’s the case even with non-religious people on issues like transgender.

“There are feminists who have a different view and I think that we should be inclusive and that we should allow them to have a platform to speak and to be heard.”

Mr Williams warned that Muslims, Christians and small c conservatives could feel “sidelined” in the union if the motion went ahead.

Delegates voted in favour of calling on the union’s executive to produce informative materials for parents and educators which “put a strong case” for age-appropriate LGBT+ inclusive education and RSE.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Not all schools are confident about how to develop a curriculum that is LGBT+ inclusive, and this matters because each student needs to access information about diversity in society.

“We can’t work towards equality in society or tackle discrimination in workplaces unless we talk positively about LGBT+ people across the curriculum.

“The DfE must continue to provide teachers with access to inclusive Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) training and it must ensure that all relevant guidance supports LGBT+ inclusion – providing clear and practical advice rather than alarming schools about what they can’t do.”