‘U-turn’ may see private schools able to opt out of LGBT+ education

As reported by Pink News, private schools may no longer be required to teach LGBT-inclusive education

The government will no longer require private schools to provide LGBT-inclusive education, according to reports.

Certain faith schools have faced scrutiny from Ofsted in recent months for not teaching pupils about diversity and respecting LGBT+ issues.

However, a new consultation on reforms to the independent school regulatory system, launched by education secretary Damian Hinds, has sparked a change that will see private schools being handed an opt-out from LGBT education under new plans.

Initially, proposals stated that acceptable standards “[require] active promotion of respect for other people, even if they hold views, choose to follow a lifestyle, or have protected characteristics, different from a pupil’s own or those prevalent in the pupil’s immediate community,” adding that pupils must be made aware of the Equality Act’s protected characteristics — which include “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” — in an “age-appropriate way.”

The Sunday Times has reported that, after protests regarding these proposals from faith schools, the requirement has been altered. It is expected that the government’s not-yet-published response will stipulate that independent primary schools should not be failed by Ofsted for not teaching about LGBT+ issues.

This move has been heavily criticised as a U-turn for the progression of education.

Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University told the Times:

“Whether or not young children should be taught about LGBT issues and gay families in schools has been a battleground for ages.

“This looks like a government U-turn. Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups have bitterly resisted the requirement to teach alternative lifestyles, with protests and placards. If this loophole is granted to independent schools, there will be a big push for this in state primary schools too.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education added:

“Independent schools, like all schools, have to promote respect for other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics under the 2010 Equalities Act.”

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The government has identified LGBT+ issues as a key area to be addressed in the new guidance – the first since 2000 – alongside new material on consent, the internet and domestic abuse.

It says: “By the end of primary school, pupils should know that others’ families, either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children’s families are also characterised by love and care for them.”

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