BREAKING NEWS: Guidance does NOT say sex at 13 is okay.


The Education Select Committee met yesterday and appeared to get a little bit fixated on the Brook Sexual Behaviours traffic light tool. As a result subsequent reporting in the Telegraph the BBC, The Daily Mail, Metro and the Mirror are all now completely miscontruing the excellent Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic lights tool as a form of teaching guidance for SRE (it’s not guidance for teaching sex ed, it’s a safeguarding tool).

A collation of the miseleading headlines is as follows:

Teachers told: sex at 13 ‘is normal part of growing up’

Sex ‘normal at 13’ suggestion raises concerns

Sex between 13-year-olds is NORMAL, says controversial ‘traffic light tool’ sent to schools to teach about relationships (N.B this one is complete rubbish- the tool has never been sent into schools to teach about relationhships)

School kids having sex at 13 is ‘normal’ says controversial advice given by charity

Campaigners claim schools are teaching pupils that 13 is a normal age for sex

I am really cross and disappointed about this. Some of the (totally rubbish and written in a hurry churnalism) articles imply that the Traffic Light tool is the same as the non-statutory supplementary guidance for SRE (produced because the current statutory guidance from DfE was produced in 2000 and is now out dated). Brook have written an excellent response statement to the article here which clarifies things further and Ally Fogg at the Guardian has written an excellent piece on this issue here.  I also wanted to add a post from my perspective of a practitioner of Sex Education, because when I’m teaching SRE in schools, I also automatically have an additional responsibility for child protection.

TO CLARIFY (if I was an Education Editor of a widely read national newspaper my refuting headline would be!) :

SEX EDUCATION TEACHERS ARE NOT BEING TOLD (BY ANY GUIDANCE DOCUMENT OR ANYONE ELSE) TO SAY SEX AT 13 IS OKAY! 

The traffic light tool actually a safeguarding tool for practitioners (not necessarily SRE teachers but maybe youth workers, teachers, pastoral leads, child protection officers etc.) to assist in identifying whether a sexual behaviour is ‘normal’ for an age group or a ’cause for concern’. The age ranges are 0-5, 5-9, 9-13 and 13-17 deliberately because there are overlaps.  It has not been reported (because that destroys the anti-sex ed narrative) that in the 9-13 age range a red behaviour (ie. one that is a serious safeguarding concern) is:

And in the 13-17 age range one of the green behaviours (ie. one that is not usually a cause for concern unless there are other factors going on) is:

Obviously the tool is an aid to professional judgement but does not replace it.  We know there maybe 13 year olds having their ‘first snogs or fumbles’, and usually this is in line with normal development. However a disclosure of a sexually active 13 year old (ie. having penetrative sex) would, in most settings, trigger a referral to the child protection lead and probably further support/intervention being put into place to support the young person. We have mandatory reporting for under 13’s because under 13’s are not able to legally consent to sex but for 13-15year olds the law is not intended to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of a similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.  Therefore the tool is entirely reasonable (and not “illegal” at all as suggested by Sarah Carter from the Family Education Trust).

Yes, we all know that sex under the age of 16 is illegal, but we also know that almost 1/3 of our young people are having sex under the age of 16 (remember that most of these will be ~15, and most people have lost their virginity by 19. So erm it’s a no brainer that the teen years are vital for high quality accurate age appropriate sex education! D’uh!)Talking about this statistic doesn’t mean any practitioner of sex ed is encouraging or condoning underage sex (I regularly use it as a social norming approach- when I ask my classes what percetage of teens have sex under the age of 16 they all respond with “90-100%” and are suprised to find out it is far lower!). Teachers of sex education are not on some kind of crusade to encourage underage sex (urgh at the thought!) but we recognise our duty is to support young people and meet their needs, where they are at, and signpost where to get further help and support.

Yes, the Brook Traffic Light Tool does also mention in the 13-17 age range:

  • consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability

which the media has seized upon.  But as a professional interpreting this in practice, I would be looking very closely at the 9-13 behaviours and the 13-17 behaviours and in my experience if a sexually active 13 year old presented to me, then often they are not in consensual situations, or have chaotic home lives, and therefore more support and intervention is needed to support that young person. (Particularly if there needs to be a (potentially criminal) investigation into the often older partner).

(As an aside, I have actually never had consensual penetrative sexual activity disclosed to me in 13 year olds, but once had to refer on two horrific cases of 13 year olds who had been gang raped, one of whom thought it was some kind of ‘rite of passage’ and and minimised it as ‘normal thing’ to happen in her peers which absolutely broke my heart. This is also why I am so angry about this misreporting- the Brook Traffic LightsTool is invaluable in suppporting professionals to protect young people so how dare they twist it like this, to score political points!?)

Like most practitioners I would use the SRE guidance documents (both statutory and non-statutory) and my school policy to ensure my teaching was in line with all of these.  If I had a disclosure or something happened that concerned me in a lesson (likely discussion of an amber or red behaviour) –  then I would refer it to my child protection lead in the school who would also be hopefully using the traffic light tool to determine the level of intervention needed.  I am clear on this, many teachers of PSHE are clear on this, but some aren’t, and they won’t be helped by misguided and innacurate reporting on it from the press.

It’s such a shame that such inaccurate reporting about sex education works to damage the reputation of this really important subject and may make some teachers reluctant or fearful about teaching it.  I just hope the Education Select Committee who are currently hearing evidence about PSHE will be able to see through this poor sensationalist reporting (and selective presentation of evidence and innacurate statements about “legality” from the Family Education Trust to the committee) to understand that the difference between guidance documents supporting the teaching of SRE, and guidance documents supporting the safeguarding of children and young people. Ultimately the the safety and healthy sexual development of young people depends on us getting this right. So maybe just maybe the reporters could try and get this right too?

 

 

 

 

A timeline of legislation, guidance & policy relating to challenging homophobia in schools since 1999


Today is 10 years to the day since Section 28 was repealed.

I made this huge timeline below because I wanted to track some of the key drivers for teachers and schools in challenging Homophobia since 1999 (to capture 2000 when SRE guidance was launched and is still in force to date despite mentioning “It it not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching”.)  I decided to publish it for reference for others.

With thanks to John Lloyd for his helpful feedback and phenomenal knowledge on aspects of this timeline!
timeline A

The second part of the timeline goes into much more detail from 2009 to current date. Apologies that this second image is stupidly tiny, but if you click on it twice it should enlarge enough to be legible. There have been serious formatting headaches with the tables in the document from word into wordpress and had to convert to an image file which hasn’t really worked either! SorryTimeline image

References

 

DCFS (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (2007) Safe to Learn- homophobic bullying. Crown Copyright. ISBN 978-1-84775-029-7

DCFS (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (2007) Bullying around racism, religion and culture, Crown Copyright.

DCFS (Department for Children,Schools and Families) (2000) Safe to Learn-Sexist, Sexual and Transphobic bullying. Crown Copyright).

DfE (Department for Education) (2012) Preventing and tackling bullying Advice for head teachers, staff and governing bodies. Crown Copyright.

DfE (Department for Education) (2013) Consultation on PSHE Education Summary Report. Available from http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/p/pshe%20cons%20report.pdf [Last accessed 30/6/13]

DfE (Department for Education)   (2013?) The national curriculum in England Framework document –February 2013 Available from https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/National%20Curriculum%20consultation%20-%20framework%20document%20(2).docx [Last accessed 30/ 8/13]

DfE  (Department for Education)  (2013?) The national curriculum in England Framework document –July 2013 Available from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/210969/NC_framework_document_-_FINAL.pdf [Last accessed 30/ 8/13]

DfE (Department for Education)   (2013?) Personal, Social and Economic Education Available from http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/b00223087/pshe [Last Accessed 11/11/13]

DFEE Guidance (Department for Education and Employment)  (2000) Curriculum and Standards. Sex and relationships education Crown copyright. Available from http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DfES-0116-2000%20SRE.pdf [Last accessed 27/ 7/ 13]

DH Department for Health (2013) A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England.Crown Copyright.

FAE, J. (2013a) Return of Section 28: Why some UK schools have banned ‘promoting’ gay issues. Gay Star News. 19.08.13. Available from  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/return-section-28-why-some-uk-schools-have-banned-%E2%80%98promoting%E2%80%99-gay-issues190813 [Accessed 20/8/13]

FAE, J. (2013b) UK government removes protection for trans children in school 21.08.13 Available from http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/uk-government-removes-protection-trans-children-school210813 [Accessed 21/8/13]

FAE, J. (2013c) UK government: Protections for trans school kids were removed in ‘error’. Gay Star News. 22.08.13 Available from http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/uk-government-protections-trans-school-kids-were-removed-error220813 [Accessed 20/8/13]

GTC (2004) Code of conduct for Teachers http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/8257/3/conduct_code_practice_for_teachers.pdf Last accessed 30/6/13]

HANNAH, A. and DOUGLAS-SCOTT, S. (2008) Challenging homophobia: Equality, diversity, inclusion. London: The FPA.

HOYLE, A. (2013d) “Dear Schools (Academies?) Having “SECTION 28″ in Your School Sex Ed Policy Is NOT Acceptable.” Web log post. SexEdUKation. WordPress, 17 Aug. 2013. Available from https://sexedukation.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/dear-schools-academies-having-section-28-in-your-school-policy-is-not-acceptable/ [Last accessed 17/8/13]

HOYLE, A. (2013e) “Promotion of Homosexuality” vs. “Promotion of Sexual Orientation” – Section 28 actually never went away. Web log post. SexEdUKation. WordPress, 17 Aug. 2013. Available from https://sexedukation.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/promotion-of-homosexuality-vs-promotion-of-sexual-orientation/ [Last accessed 31/8/13]

JENNETT, M. (2004)  Stand up for us – Challenging Homophobia in schools. National Healthy School Standard. Department of Health, Department for Education and skills. ISBN 1-84279-200-8

OFSTED (2010) Personal, social, health and economic education in schools. Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/personal-social-health-and-economic-education-schools [Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED (2012) No Place for Bullying. Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/no-place-for-bullying [Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED Framework for school inspection (2013a) Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/framework-for-school-inspection [Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED (2013b) Inspection Documents Archive Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/maintained-schools-inspection-documents-archive[Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED (2013) Not Yet Good Enough, Personal, social, health and economic education in schools. Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/not-yet-good-enough-personal-social-health-and-economic-education-schools [Accessed 13/12/13]

Sex Education Forum (2011) The Current Status of Sex and Relationships Education. Available from http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/385195/current_status_of_sre.pdf [Last accessed 30/6/13]

STONEWALL Hunt, R., & Jensen, J. (2007).  The School Report: The Experiences of Young Gay People in Britain’s School. Stonewall. Available from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/education_resources/4004.asp [Accessed 1/3/13]

STONEWALL Guasp, A. (2009). The teachers’ report: Homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools. London: Stonewall. Available from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/education_resources/4003.asp [Accessed 1/3/13]

Stonewall Guasp. A. (2012) The School Report: The experiences of Young
Gay People in Britain’s schools in 2012. London, Available from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_resources/7957.asp [Accessed 1/3/13]

 

 

 

How clear is the DfE SRE Guidance? A Poll


So the DfE are widely quoted as saying:

“‘Our sex and relationship education guidance makes it clear that schools should not promote any sexual orientation.” (emphasis mine)

“Clear” they say?

The document in question actually states:

a) It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching. (Page 5)

b) “There should be no direct promotion of

sexual orientation.” (Page 13)

c)

“It is inappropriate for youth workers, as with any professional, to promote sexual
orientation.” (Page 28)

What a difference the addition of “any” makes to those statements.

So I did a poll- just for fun- how clear are the DfE in their SRE Guidance?

Keeping an “Up to date SRE policy” is enshrined in law- don’t use “it was an old policy” as an excuse for s28 style policies.


I am heartened that so many schools have taken down their problematic SRE Policies,  but some schools are claiming the policy was out of date (by more than 10 years- really!?) or it was an administrative error (despite evidence to the contrary).

I need to point out that the Education Act 1996 states that:

404: The governing body of a maintained school shall—

1 (a)make, and keep up to date, a separate written statement of their policy with regard to the provision of sex education, and

(b)make copies of the statement available for inspection (at all reasonable times) by parents of registered pupils at the school and provide a copy of the statement free of charge to any such parent who asks for one.

                                                                     (emphasis mine)

I don’t want to scapegoat any individual school as I think the problem is actually far wider than the 46 schools identified so far (I identified 100+ schools with problematic DfE worded policies– that swapped Homosexuality for Sexual Orientation- as it does in the current but dated SRE 2000 guidance).

But if a school is found to have a policy that is so woefully inadequate for the needs of their LGBT learners please do not then admit you have broken the law in other ways by not keeping your policy up to date. Instead apologise, accept support and help to develop better inclusive policies and learn from it as a school. This will be positive for all your learners. Brushing it off as an administrative error or updating oversight only continues to compound the issues within your school.

A quick recap on this equalities and school policies issue so far.


People are probably getting lost in my many posts on this issue so too recap:

My main issues are

a) I’ve found 100’s of schools with problematic policies relating to the EXACT wording of current DfE SRE Guidance documentation. (DfE whilst mounting a challenge to those include “must not promote homosexuality” are keeping quiet on what they think of those that say “must not promote sexual orientation” given this is in their own current guidance for schools)
b) DfE removed “legalisation of homosexuality and abortion” from previous to latest draft history curriculum.
c) DfE for deliberately removed gender identity from a specific equal opportunities statement from previous draft.

I have real issues with the phrasing of the current SRE guidance and I have been wondering for months if it might be in breach of equality act.  It is very clear schools are confused with their rights and responsibilities on this issue especially given that
one of the schools with a problematic policy has published their equality policy online it states “we do not promote one life style choice over another” (implying sexual orientation or gender identity is a lifestyle choice, sigh.)

Will keep you posted.

Over 100 school policies identified that mention something on “not promoting sexual orientation”, many also include “that would be inappropriate teaching.”


I just did this google search (more info on this non-systematic search strategy can be found here), in the first 32 pages I identified OVER 100 school policies that include words to the effect of the DfE 2000 Guidance which states several times.

“It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”

I do not have time to go through all 138,000 google hits in that search but I am betting that hundreds and hundreds of schools include versions of this phrase.

After all these school policies are only following the exact wording from the guidance of the department for education.

Can we blame them?

These policies (and the more serious ones where “homosexuality is not allowed to be promoted“), and government guidance have create school cultures where homophobia and transphobia can thrive, and teachers are scared to challenge it lest they be accused of “promotion”.

The DfE are trying to spin it that they meant not promoting one sexual orientation (heterosexuality) over any other. We know they did not. The evidence from this post and this one shows just how little they care about students who are LGBT whatever noises they are currently making in the current media furore.

We cannot let them continue to get away with this. We cannot. I want my children to learn in an environment where they understand that everyone is equal and that differences are to be respected.

To do otherwise fails another generation.

DfE “statement” about teaching about sexual orientation (and gender identity?)


Today I have been looking if there was a specific recent DfE published statement about teaching about sexual orientation (and Gender Identity) that I wasn’t aware of. There isn’t one as far as I can see given that the Safe to Learn Guidance (on Homophobic Bullying and Sexist, Sexual and Transphobic Bullying) were pulled by this government. Sexual Orientation is included in the SRE guidance (but Gender Identity is not) and I have already blogged about the issues with that document, but at least it tries to be inclusive in places (apart from the “it is not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching” caveat) But as far as I can tell there is no further official document since the 2000 document in place. However MP Stephen Williams wrote to DfE back in June on this issue he received this response which he tweeted today.

and given current government comment in this article and this article. I think we know where the government responses will be in coming days and weeks. They will claim they were clear all along (they were/are NOT) and that the individual schools are to blame for these policies when actually it is their systematic failure to include sexual and gender diversity within policies and the curriculum that has left schools in this mess and it is unfair to now pass the buck to the individual schools.

However I am very hopeful this will create the clear motivation and political will to change this for the better and properly include guidance for teachers and schools on how to properly and appropriately support and include students whatever their identity, and overall improve SRE guidance to include issues such as talking about consent and pornography which are current issues for young people completely omitted from this 13 year old document. Of course there is also the possibility things could end up worse, in terms of existing legislation and guidance and we must do everything in our power to stop that from happening.

 

 

 

“Legalisation of homosexuality & abortion” removed from Draft History National Curriculum.


Well well well interesting discoveries going on today.

In Feb 2013 the Draft History Curriculum stated students should learn about:

“society and social reform, including the abolition of capital punishment, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality, and the Race Relations Act” (Page 171)

But in the current June 2013 draft this had been removed. The Equalities Impact Assessment Statement gave this rationale (page 10):

Whilst we recognise that some of the specific content which we have removed was welcomed by equalities organisations, we believe that strong concerns raised about the over-prescriptive nature of the draft programmes of study mean that this has been a
necessary step in producing a curriculum that can and will be taught. It will remain open to schools to choose which particular individuals they teach pupils about, both as part of delivering the prescribed content of the national curriculum and as part of their wider
school curriculum, and in doing so we expect them to consider the importance of identifying role models from a diverse range of ethnic and other backgrounds”

 

and also states later in the section under science (page 12).

“On same-sex relationships, our view is that it is most appropriate for schools to cover this topic as part of PSHE education, where it can be adapted more effectively to suit the needs of particular groups of pupils.”

 

 

Interesting. So sexual orientation and gender identity are completely erased from the National Curriculum, and gender identity is even erased from the inclusion statement in the latest version & the statement about same sex relationships being best taught in PSHE* is hidden away in the Equality Act Impact Assessment which no teacher will ever read unless they are a dork like me  to find out more details about what they should be teaching.

Today is a sad day. Uncovering just how far institutional heternormativity pervades government institutions. On the plus side it’s worth a paragraph or two in the masters! 

 

 

 

(*In terms of PSHE it is not part of the National Curriculum and so DfE have not produced a programme of study but the PSHE Association have just launched a pretty good and inclusive one – I should know I consulted on aspects of it!)

Equal Opportunities and the New National Curriculum.


Been pondering about the evolution of the National Curriculum and its Equal opportunities statements.

1999 National Curriculum included the statement as part of its blurb about its aims:

It should promote equal opportunities and enable pupils to challenge discrimination and stereotyping. (page 11)

2008 National Curriculum refined those aims and whilst there is no explicit mention of equal opportunities it does state it aims to create responsible citizens who:

  • “appreciate the benefits of diversity”
  • “challenge injustice, are committed to human rights  and strive to live peaceably with others”

2013- The latest draft of the National Curriculum Document (July 2013) no longer has anything about equal opportunities in its aims (page 5) but the specific inclusion statement (page 8) includes

“Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.”

Which is positive, but striking was that “pregnancy and maternity”, “Age” and “Gender Reassignment” are missing from this list despite them also being protected characteristics under the Equality Act and all things that may also affect school students.

On reading the Equality Act Impact Assessment (Which David Cameron announced in Nov 2012 the Government would no longer be carrying out) The possible equalities impacts of the national curriculum inclusion statement is on Page 13 and states

The national curriculum framework document includes an inclusion statement that reaffirms schools’ duties under equalities legislation, revising the current inclusion
statement which is now out of date in relation to the rights of the protected groups covered by the 2010 Equality Act (e.g. relating to disability, sex, sexual identity, gender identity, and religion or belief). The inclusion statement sets out that teachers must determine the support and teaching interventions their pupils need to participate fully in all parts of the school curriculum, including the national curriculum. The statement also gives teachers and teaching staff the freedom to teach the national curriculum in line with pupils’ specific and individual needs and make reasonable adjustments.”

So whilst the Impact Assessment relating to the inclusion statement mentions gender identity- the inclusion statement in the document itself does not!? HMMMMMMM!

In the Impact Assessment introduction the document states “Within a school context, the most relevant protected characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) are pupil disability; race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin); religion or belief (including lack of religion/belief); sex; and sexual orientation“. Which again erases transgender issues which are likely to be experienced in school contexts. The legal definition of Gender Reassignment basically means anyone who transgendered and   does not specify a Gender Recognition Certificate is needed therefore will include school students (as to get a gender recognition certificate you would need to be over 18 and have lived in your new gender for at least two years ie. may not effect school students) but I am not sure as I thought Gender Identity would have been protected and I would welcome comment from those more expert than I on Trans equality laws.

I also found it interesting that DfE when carrying out the consultation asked specific questions about the Equality Act and they state:

“The responses to the public consultation that covered the possible impact of the new national curriculum on pupils with protected characteristics most frequently referred to disability, ethnicity and belief/religion, with sex and sexuality being flagged in a handful of cases (and no mention being made of age, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or being married).” (emphasis mine)

However if you read this response to the Draft National Curriculum from the Sex Education Forum which I helped draft you will see Transgender Identities are specifically referred too, although Gender reassignment not specifically, but it is disappointing this was not acknowledged.

Unfortunately the latest consultation on the National Curriculum Draft (there have been many!) closed on the 8th August.  On reflection I would like to see Gender Identity and Pregnancy and Maternity specifically included within the inclusion statement as issues that teachers should not discriminate against.

What do you think?

“Promotion of Homosexuality” vs. “Promotion of Sexual Orientation” – Section 28 actually never went away


People keep on saying “reintroduction of Section 28” about the policies within this post however what they don’t realise is that it actually sort of never went away.

Teachers and schools (including academies) STILL have to pay due regard to the SRE (2000) guidance. This was announced in March 2013 that we would be getting no new SRE guidance. 

THIS DOCUMENT STATES THREE TIMES THAT “There should be no promotion of sexual orientation this is inappropriate teaching” 

So don’t necessarily blame the individual schools for developing homophobic policies when the document we have to build our school policies from is possibly homophobic, inappropriate and completely out of date and out of touch. (and possibly contravenes the Equalities Act?).  Further investigation has revealed some of the policies now being in process of being updated (in response to backlash?) however further googling found another 5 schools and counting with problematic policies and although it seems it is partly as a result of sharing some very out of date academies documentation, some policies will have been adopted unquestioningly because of the SRE Guidance and maybe Section 28 of the model funding agreement for Academies and free schools?

Schools that have policies that state about the non-promotion of homosexuality should be challenged- but where do we stand on schools that state “promotion of sexual orientation”? After all they are only following the SRE 2000 Guidance.

To me promotion of  “sexual orientation” could be interpreted as not promoting one sexual orientation above the other. So schools might have meant they were considering the issue of heterosexual hegemony right?