The “Other” and Surplus Visibility


One of the the articles I am analysing for my masters (into challenging homophobia in schools) talks about Patai’s notion of suplus visibility where:

“unexpected visibility of those who were meant to remain invisible; as the “Other,” they are forced to either disappear or appear larger than life, to keep silent, or scream.”

This might explain why we might commonly see LGBT identities either is invisible (we don’t notice them because they are forced to be closeted) or as “larger than life” or “hypersexual” or “in your face and flaunting it” “being on a soapbox or grinding axes” (read article in full for a fuller explanation).

As a notion it made sense to me, so I thought I would share.

What do you think?

Reference

DEPALMA, R. and ATKINSON, E. (2009b) “Permission to Talk About It” Narratives of Sexual Equality in the Primary Classroom. Qualitative Inquiry. 15 (5). p. 876-892. Available from http://qix.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/02/26/1077800409332763 [Accessed 25/6/13]

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“Being gay is against my religion”- Teachers how do you respond?


As a teacher what do you say to that statement?  You don’t want to be seen to maligning a faith viewpoint, and maybe you don’t personally know enough about the faith in question to start having a theological debate on the issue so instead perhaps you avoid the issue completely?

When I first started talking about homophobia in the classroom, I used to say was that all major religions promote tolerance and respect and even if your faith perspective doesn’t agree with someone’s sexual orientation, that does not give you the right to discriminate against someone because of it. Also despite some religious teachings against same sex relationships, there will be people who are LGBT within that particular faith, and what it actually comes down to is how you interpret the most important aspects of your faith for you, ie. faith is more importantly about your own relationship with god rather than interpretations of your faith by faith leaders. (Which is how my Catholic Lesbian friend explained to me how she reconciled her own faith with her sexual orientation, which was a very helpful perspective to help me understand.)

Since then I have developed an understanding that promoting ideas of tolerance or acceptance are flawed. We wouldn’t ask someone to tolerate black people- the very notion is offensive, why shouldn’t it be the same for people who are LGBT?  (Check out the Riddle Scale of Attitudes for more info) and hence teachers need to think carefully about using words such as tolerance or acceptance (although they do appear frequently in certain religious texts).

Since doing this masters I have realised that LGBT equality is fairly unique in being perceived as against someones religion, however just because the arguments for oppression are religious does not excuse them (the arguments for slavery in the US or persecution of Jews in Europe were also often religious, we don’t excuse those- why should this be any different?).

Teachers need to be clear that there is a limit where respecting one groups freedoms may mean limiting the freedoms of another. It is not always an easy boundary to negotiate but avoiding discussion on the issue at all with religious students/schools is also not an option.  I’ve talked about negotiating the line between faith and discussions on sexuality before in this open letter to MP Matthew Offord, and I share below the example I wrote there about my experience around discussions of faith and sexuality.

“One of my proudest teaching and learning moments was covering a lesson on homophobia with a class, a boy with strong faith views shouted out “I WANT TO KILL ALL GAYS” he was angry and convinced this was a course of action they deserved. He was adament that he believed this because his faith taught him it was wrong.  By the end of the lessons he came to me and said “Miss, I still don’t like it and neither does my faith, but I get what you mean now about not being mean to someone because of it.” For him that was the most monumental shift, and he was a violent angry young man, I have absolutely no doubt that he would be the type to beat someone up for acting “gay” whether or not they actually were.”

During that lesson, I obviously challenged him on his original statement as it was very offensive and breached our ground rules, but during the lesson we explored stereotypes and feelings and human rights. We talked about faith in the context I described above and at no point did anyone try and malign his faith viewpoint, and he still went on to have the monumental shift in attitude (I am not naive, this may not have been a permanent attitudinal change but in a single lesson it was a massive shift in positioning and if nothing else I made him think!).   This is just one example but it shows such discussions can and should take place that respect both faith values and an equalities perspective.

Please don’t let fears around a possible religious backlash, prevent work around challenging homophobia and transphobia. It is not impossible and in fact you maybe pleasantly surprised (I had several strongly religious people actively support the work within my previous school).

Happy Educating.

EDIT: As Gill Frances reminded me from her comments below- we also need to point out to children and young people that religious beliefs do not trump the laws of this land and that both Sexual Orientation, Gender Reassignment and Religion & belief are all protected characteristics within the Equality Act (2010). Also particular faith perspectives are unlikely to be universal within your classroom, having a faith perspective does not give you any more right than anyone else in the class to share that perspective.  Or to put it another way:

Dear Parents- Support your children’s teachers to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity.


I know from my own experience of challenging homophobia & tranphobia in school one of my most significant fears apart from ending up in the daily mail  was the fear of parental backlash.  As it happens as I progressed with the work the parents were overwhelmingly supportive and the backlash  never actually came, I ended up kicking myself that I had let the fear stop me progressing with aspects of the work until my confidence grew.

Now I am doing my research into my masters challenging homophobia and I am finding a lot of evidence that suggests that a significant barrier to teachers doing this type of equalities work is fear of parental reactions. However research also shows that the vast majority of parents (90+%) believe it is important to include “understanding sexual orientation” as part of PSHE (Morgan, 2000 and Mumsnet 2012 and probably a few more but no time to hunt down the refs!)

This tells me there is a MAJOR lack of communication between parents and teachers on this issue. Therefore if you are a parent of school aged children I urge you to make your schools head and PSHE teacher aware that you are very supportive of work done to talk about sexual orientation, gender identity and challenging homophobic and transphobic bullying. This in turn should hopefully give teachers more confidence to actually do this work! Likewise Teachers- COMMUNICATE with your parents. Let them know about the work you are doing, their support will increase your confidence in doing this type of work.

Happy Educating.

So are you gay then?


Talking about my masters in challenging homophobia in schools in the pub the other night I was confronted with the question:

“So are you gay then?”

This person assumed I must be as she could not comprehend why someone who is straight would be bothered about discrimination of a group that they did not belong to.

With students I usually reply to that question (with a gentle reminder about ground rules and no personal questions!)with:

“would it matter if I were?”

and we start to unpick why this stuff should be important to us all, and how ones sexual orientation does not affect their ability to be a good teacher, a good friend etc.

In the classroom it is an interesting one- if you are a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual teacher, do you really want to come out to the students in your school? You could be an amazing role model but likewise in a non-supportive school you could be opening up a can of prejudicial worms. Likewise a straight teacher doing this work maybe worried people will assume they are Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual and treat them differently as a result, and this may serve as a barrier to this work. Also they may feel they don’t know enough about the issues to address it properly (to that I must point out white male teachers can teach about racism or sexism just fine- this is no different). (Oh and N.B Straight Teachers answering that question with an emphatic “No!” as if its a bad thing, only serves to reinforce the pervading culture of heteronormativity. Sigh.)

To the woman in the pub I didn’t ask her “would it matter if I were?” but said loftily

To me this is an equalities issue and it’s something we should all be bothered about whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity.

(and then carried on ranting about my research to the poor woman- sorry!)

Whilst doing this work I have always been aware of having heterosexual privilege. Being a married (to a man) mother of two working in this field, means that it brings this issue into the mainstream. I’m not someone from a so-called “sexual minority” (I hate that term- very “othering”) on a soapbox but someone who never experiences homophobia but is actively engaged in challenging prejudice and discrimination particularly related to sexual orientation and gender identity. In my experience this has possibly added a level of engagement to the work from straight colleagues, that might not be present if I was a gay, lesbian or bisexual teacher?

I’m not saying all teachers need to be as engaged on these issues as rantypants me, but I am saying all teachers can and should challenge LGBT prejudice as much as possible regardless of their own identity. It’s a human rights issue, it’s an equalities issue and even just taking the time to consider how you might answer the question from a student

So are you gay then?

in a way that addresses sexualities equality in some way is a step in the right direction.

Anyhow Macklemore, Ryan Lewis &Mary Lewis say it better than me afterall its “Same Love.”

“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!)

Bring on the Vulva revolution!


Following this post exploring the gendered aspect of naming of the genitals.

@bfaware suggested

Which got me pondering what a Vulva Power salute would look like?

Twitter suggest this?

Vulcan Hand Salute via @BFAware

or this:

Ovarian Gang sign via @Edforchoice

What do you think?

Bring on the Vulva revolution!

Who is with me?

Using the “proper words” for body parts- a gendered issue?


A year ago I wrote this for the New Statesman and on Tuesday the Sex Education Forum published this blog.

retweeting them yesterday @itsmotherswork asked in response

Which prompted this post as I needed to write a longer response than twitter allows for.

Personally I wouldn’t ever say any word to describe a body part is improper as it is just not a word I use (sounds a bit Victorian!), but obviously there are correct or scientific terms for body parts (penis) then colloquial accepted terms (willy) then slang or offensive terms (cock). That doesn’t mean the latter two are incorrect (if used about the right body part) but depends on context used in.

I have absolutely no objection to “bottom” being used instead of “anus” or “gluteus maximus” or “tummy” being used instead of “abdomen” as words to describe parts of the body for young children, children can build on the scientific terms for body parts as they grow up and tummy and bottom are widely accepted and pretty much universally known in English speaking countries.

I have HUGE OBJECTIONS to the fact that while “Willy” is a perfectly acceptable universal term to use for young children for the penis there absolutely no universal acceptable term for the vulva for children (terms range from the cutesy Fairy, NooNoo, Minnie, Twinkle*  to the rather cool Yoni (sanskrit for Vagina) frankly ick Front Bottom or Split).  This is about erasure of female sexuality, female identity- we are taught from a young age that our body parts are not even deserving of a proper name, they are either to be cutesey or shameful and mustn’t be discussed.  Have to be honest even I as a sex educator initially I was really not keen on the word vulva for a long time but in the absence of a better alternative**  it is what I use with my children***

Nowadays I am totally comfortable with the word vulva but I am 100% sure that the reason the DfE are completely refusing to specify Penis and Vulva and Vagina in the Science National Curriculum is because of a fear of the word vulva. Penis is not the problem. Vulva (and possibly vagina) is. But in the absence of a universal accepted colloquialism for vulva then vulva is what we must use- to do otherwise is a potential route to confusion, worry, stigma and shame.  It is a safeguarding issue not to have a common language of a body part that might be touched inappropriately****. It is also a health issue to be able to talk about where itches or is causing problems and it a sexuality issue about learning to communicate about your own body so that as a sexually active adult you know your body is not a source of sniggering or shame.

So vulva is a proper word- embrace it, say it with me. vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva

*Twinkle  always makes me think of the phrase “twinkle in your father’s eye”- Shudder.

** I decided against vagina as not anatomically correct as refers to the internal genitals.

***Whilst being respectful of any made up slang words they choose to adopt for their own body parts – but must admit I did gently steer away from “front bottom” which was picked up at nursery!

**** I read somewhere about a dad investigated at length by social services after a child was crying about “Daddy hurting my NooNoo”- NooNoo being her toy rabbit he had put in the washing machine- maybe an urban legend but makes a point.

Interpreting the legislation regarding sexualities equality schools- Even the Welsh & English Governments are confused.


I’ve already written about how the SRE guidance (2000) possible contravenes the Equality Duty 2011, but today I found out that the English government don’t think the Catholic Education Service broke the law when it wrote to 400 Catholic Schools and urged them to sign the petition against same sex marriage, but the Welsh Government do think they broke the law relating to the Education Act but not the Equalities Act.*

The laws in question are the

Equality Act 2010 section 149 regarding public sector equality duty

and

Education Act 1996,sections 406-7 regarding political indoctrination and requirement for balance. 

Same legislation. Same circumstances. Different interpretations by different governments.

Interesting. Frustrating. Potentially devastating for any LGBT student within a Catholic school. Although I am somewhat heartened by the new pope’s comments about sexual identity.

Thanks to the awesome Richey @BHAHumanists who told me about this situation. His work is really important and you can donate here.

The PSHE Review. Respondents and Homophobic Bullying in the report


In March 2013 the DfE published the outcomes of the latest PSHE review (DfE 2013). The publication of this review took over 16 months to complete from the close of the consultation process in November 2011. Unfortunately the review was problematic in the way that it did not weight responses correctly so the review made it seem like parents were the biggest respondents (168) when other organisations who responded included the Sex Education Forum (who represent over 70 organisations working in the sector who were consulted on the response), as well as the PSHE Association (who surveyed their 2000+ membership before submitting their response) but in the final report their responses only counted as 1 response each. Thus a single parent voice was given equal weight to huge organisations consisting of hundreds of professional voices when compiling the review.

I discovered the published report on the consultation does not include mention of homophobia, sexual orientation, sexuality AT ALL (but racism and gender equality are included) but given I like to track these things I compiled the table below that outlines the responses possibly could be relevant to challenging homophobia contained within the PSHE report.

“Many respondents thought that PSHE outcomes could be evidenced in the positive behaviour of pupils, and observable attitudes and relationships across the school and the local community. They believed PSHE outcomes must move away from quantitative outcomes to things such as school ethos, attitudes to bullying, promotion of equality, and improved social behaviour.
68 (12%) felt that being able to recognise bullying should be a core outcome of PSHE. Respondents identified two separate issues. Some felt that the main outcome should be to offer support to pupils who were being bullied and help them to deal with the consequences of negative relationships. Others felt that the reason for including the topic was to promote equality and enable pupils to be able to identify and tackle bullying amongst their peers. 
137 (24%) believed pupils must be given the knowledge to respect others and to appreciate different beliefs. It was mentioned that it was important that they had an understanding of the differences between people and cultures, about gender equality and had the ability to challenge racism, discrimination and stereotyping.

Then I went back to some of the organisations who submitted responses just to see what they had said about homophobia, homophobic bullying, sexual orientation, & sexuality.

I copy and paste the most relevant below (I have not C&P’d every mention but have hyperlinked to the reports where available online so you can check them)

PSHE Association, – Under Qu 7 request for case studies-

“Teacher training in the area of homophobic bullying has also helped in the way we deal with homophobic bullying (as we are in a primary school this would often be the derogatory use of the word ‘Gay’ and hopefully will impact on the incidents of homophobic bullying that we have). Ofsted PSHE inspection 2009 ‘outstanding’.”

SEF response

“Be positively inclusive in terms of gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, culture,
age, religion or belief or other life-experience particularly HIV status and pregnancy;”

FPA & Brook Response:

“We believe that it is vital for any updated guidance on relationships and sex education to address the needs of all children and young people, including young people with special educational needs (SEN) or learning disabilities, disabled children and young people, children and young people in care and lesbian, gay or bisexual children and young people. It is vital that all relationships and sex education is inclusive and non-discriminatory. Ways this can be done includes not making assumptions about faith-based or cultural practices, challenging any homophobia, racism or sexism, and ensuring that resources and discussions reflect the diversity of the pupils.”

ATL:

“We believe that the relationships element of
PSHE education must take proper account of the imbalance of power in many relationships which can manifest itself in bullying, violent, abusive and/or discriminatory behaviour based amongst others on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or belief and
social class. We also recommend that the relationships element of PSHE education is more explicitly joined up with wider initiatives aimed at eliminating all forms of bullying, discrimination, violence and hate crime, including culturally-specific violence against women and girls.”

NASUWT,

“Despite this, cyberbullying is clearly an issue affecting teachers in other countries outside the UK, with cyber-abuse related to gender and sexual orientation being most frequent.ETUCE 2010”

Stonewall (their response is not available online but I requested a copy and funnily enough there is considerable focus on homophobia and homophobic bullying throughout the document including:

PSHE provides children and young people with the opportunity to discuss topics like homophobic bullying, different families including same-sex families and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. Discussing these issues in an appropriate and structured way helps break down stereotypes, for example, about what boys and girls ‘should and shouldn’t do’. It also provides all pupils, including those who are, or will grow up to be, lesbian, gay and bisexual, with relevant information enabling them to make safe choices. However, at present the PSHE framework does not give clear enough guidance to schools about what issues to address and how to address them. Developing a more inclusive PSHE framework and programme of study which specifically includes age-appropriate information about different families and homophobic bullying and information on how schools can work effectively with parents and carers around these issues, will help the Government’s aim in tackling this form of bullying as outlined in the Schools White Paper 2010; will help schools comply with the Equality Act 2010 and public sector Equality Duty; and will help schools to meet the requirements of the new proposed Ofsted inspection framework.”

NICE,

“Ninety per cent of secondary school teachers and 44% of primary school teachers say that children and young people experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment at school, yet most incidents go unreported (Guasp 2007). Pupils who experience homophobic bullying are more likely to miss school and less likely to stay in full-time education (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2009b). Further, most teachers and non-teaching staff in primary and secondary schools have not received training in how to tackle this form of bullying, and most would not feel confident in providing pupils with information, advice and guidance on lesbian and gay issues (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007).”

British Humanist Association:

“Homophobic Bullying is a major issue in all schools, but is a particular issue in ‘faith’ schools. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report’ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in ‘faith’ schools that figure rises to three in four. The report also showed that lesbian and gay pupils who attend ‘faith’ schools are 23% less likely to report bullying than those at other schools.’1 Many ‘faith’ schools also have issues with teaching about relationships other than heterosexual relationships, and it is important that different sexual orientations are treated equally including in issues to do with marriage and civil partnership.”

National Secular Society

Reduce homophobic bullying by improving education and normalising all sexualities. A YouGov polling demonstrates that nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than
two in five primary school teachers have witnessed children being subjected to homophobic bullying in their schools. Teachers say the vast majority of homophobic incidents go unreported by pupils. Three quarters of young LGBT people who attend faith schools have experienced homophobic bullying4.

National AIDS Trust

“This can also link with work on bullying. However, more broadly the PSHE curriculum needs to focus more explicitly on attitudes and values, in order to properly address issues such as HIV-related stigma, homophobia and racism.”

Accord Coalition

We are very concerned how schools may deal with issues of sexual difference and diversity. Homophobia is a major issue in schools, but is a particular issue in the faith school sector. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report’ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in schools with a religious character the figure rises to three in four. The report also showed that lesbian and gay pupils who attend these schools are 23% less likely to report bullying than those at schools without a faith designation[1].

We believe stronger guidance should be given to help schools cover issues of sexual difference and diversity so that they are able to balances setting out religious and cultural perspectives with schools vitally important requirement to promote equality and encourages acceptance of diversity. PSHE could and should play an important role in schools tackling bullying based on sexual difference.

Other organisations I suspect will have mentioned homophobic bullying but I have not been able to see a copy of their responses are Anti-Bullying alliance, Beat Bullying, NAH, Banardos, Astell Project, NAH and ASCL. The DfE has supplied me with a list of respondents to the PSHE review and I have gone through them and know many people personally in the list who would also have flagged it as an issue. So this suggests to me that this was raised in a reasonable proportion of responses, although obviously without checking all 699 reponses I can’t know for sure.

Interesting then how the words Homophobia, Homophobic Bullying, Sexuality and Sexual Orientation are then COMPLETELY ABSENT FROM THE PSHE REPORT. Silenced Sexualities in 2013. How very disappointing. Not only are we having to stick with the SRE Guidance that is possibly in breach of the equalities act. But we also have an education department who can’t even bring themselves to mention the words Homophobia, Homophobic Bullying, Sexuality or Sexual Orientation- in a report about Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE). The exact place these things would and should be covered.

It makes me so cross.

 

 

Does the DfEE SRE Guidance 2000 meet the Equality Duty 2011?


Thirteen years ago the 2000 the government published the Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) guidance (DfEE 2000).  In 2013 the government restated that this SRE guidance document was still in force when it published the outcomes of the PSHE review (Truss, 2013). The table below outlines the key areas where sexuality is referred to within that document, a brief analysis of key words for the document the underpinning legal framework to SRE.    This document preceded the repeal of Section 28 and hence several times throughout the document “It is not about promotion of sexual orientation- this would be inappropriate teaching” is mentioned (Highlighted in Red in the table below).

What does “promotion of sexual orientation” even mean? Not about promoting one identity over another? The inference that many teachers would take from this is you shouldn’t talk about different sexual identities, but perhaps you could interpret it as you should not promote heterosexuality as superior to other sexual identities? Is this really appropriate for a guidance document that teachers and schools are expected to pay due regard too in 2013? I think not!

Since 2011 Public Bodies including DfE are required to comply with the new equality duty which places an obligation on public authorities to positively promote equality, not merely to avoid discrimination on protected characteristics including sexual orientation.  Does the statement “it is not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching” repeated throughout the document mean they are clearly not meeting their legal duties in 2013 by expecting teachers and schools to follow this guidance? I’m not a lawyer- what do you think?

 The DfEE (2000) Sex and Relationships Guidance Document. Key aspects relating to Sexuality and challenging homophobia.
Key aspects of the text  Page 5 of SRE Guidance“What is sex and relationship education? It is lifelong learning about physical, moral and emotional development. It is about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex, sexuality, and sexual health. It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”        
Page 11 of SRE GuidanceRelationships “Within the context of talking about relationships, children should be taught about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children. The Government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore, children should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Teaching in this area needs to be sensitive so as not to stigmatise children on the basis of their home circumstances.”
Page 12 & 13 of SRE Guidance“Sexual identity and sexual orientation It is up to schools to make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment is clear that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support. There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation.

 

Sexual orientation and what is taught in schools is an area of concern for some parents. Schools that liaise closely with parents when developing their sex and relationship education policy and programme should be able to reassure parents of the content of the programme and the context in which it will be presented.

 

Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying. Guidance issued by the Department (Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular 10/99) dealt with the unacceptability of and emotional distress and harm caused by bullying in whatever form – be it racial, as a result of a pupil’s appearance, related to sexual orientation or for any other reason.”

(N.B this has now been superceded by Education and Inspections Act 2006 and Equalities act 2010)

Page 19 of SRE GuidanceSRE within PSHE in Primary Schools Expects pupils to

“developing good relationships and respecting differences between people.”

 

Page 20 of SRE GuidanceSRE within PSHE In Secondary Schools Expects pupils to:

“be aware of their sexuality and understand human sexuality”

Page 25 of SRE Guidance

Parents need support in:

  • “answering questions about growing up, having babies, feeling attraction, sexuality, sex, contraception, relationships and sexual health.”
Page 27 of SRE Guidance

Youth Workers:

 “It is inappropriate for youth workers, as with any professional, to promote sexual orientation. They will be expected to respect this guidance when dealing with school age children. Individual views should not affect the independent advice given to the young person concerned.”

Page 27 of SRE Guidance

Peer Education:

“Particular life experiences of the educators can help young people understand how sex and relationships can affect people positively and negatively. Examples

include:

  • young teenage mothers talking about their experiences of having a child and offering advice and support to their peers;
  • young Asian women talking about their experience of learning about sex and relationships at home and from the wider community including school;
  • young people talking about their experience of living with HIV; and
  • young people who are physically disabled talking to other young people with a disability.”

Note the complete omission of people who are LGBT as possible educators.

Page 31 of SRE Guidance

Confidentiality:

The section on confidentiality at the end of the document  does not clarify that a young persons developing sexual orientation is NOT a child protection issue. I know of cases of LGB students engaged in consensual sexual relationships both over the age of consent have been referred to child protection leads which should not have been.

Analysis of the use of key terms Overview of key terms used

Homophobia appears 0 times in the document.

Sexuality appears 9 times in the document

Sexual Orientation 7 times in the document

Heterosexual, Homosexual, Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender do not appear at all as terms in the document.

Prejudice appears twice in the document

Equality or Discrimination do not appear as terms in the document.

Bullying appears three times in the document, one of those mentions being “homophobic bullying”

Underpinning Legislation to this document(adapted from FPA,2011 and SEF, 2011) Legal framework for SRE

Legislation relating to sex and relationships education (SRE) are contained within the Education Act (1996) and the Learning and Skills Act (2000).

The Education Act 1996 consolidated all previous legislation, and key points related to SRE are:

  • It is compulsory for all maintained schools to teach some parts of sex education i.e. the

biological aspects of puberty, reproduction and the spread of viruses. These topics are

statutory parts of the National Curriculum Science which must be taught to all pupils of

primary and secondary age.

  • Secondary schools are required to provide an SRE programme which includes (as a minimum) information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.
  • Other elements of personal, social and health education (PSHE), including SRE, are non-statutory.
  • All schools must provide, and make available for inspection, an up-to-date policy describing the content and organisation of SRE outside of national curriculum science. This is the school governors’ responsibility.
  • Primary schools should have a policy statement that describes the SRE provided or gives a statement of the decision not to provide SRE.

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires that:

  • young people learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children.
  • young people are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate, having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.
  • school governing bodies have regard for the SRE guidance.
  • parents have the right to withdraw their child from all or part of SRE provided outside national curriculum science.

* N.B. Schools are also legally required to comply with the new Equality Duty. The Act also makes it unlawful for the responsible body of a school to discriminate against, harass or victimise a pupil or potential pupil in relation to admissions, the way it provides education for pupils, provision of pupil access to any benefit, facility or service, or by excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment. In England and Wales the Act applies to all maintained and independent schools, including Academies and Free Schools, and maintained and non-maintained special schools. (SEF, 2011)

 The Equality Act 2010 covers the way the curriculum is delivered, as schools and other education providers must ensure that issues are taught in a way that does not subject pupils to discrimination. It is also a legal requirement for schools to teach a balanced view of any political issue. Schools must ensure equal opportunities in the education they provide, so it would not be lawful for schools to provide SRE only for girls or only for boys. An example of good practice given in guidance for education providers on the Equality Act (EHRC,2010)  is that PSHE education should cover  equality and diversity based subjects including gender equality and non-violent, respectful relationships between women and men.

As the SRE Guidance does stateYoung people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs…. teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support.” & “Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying”.  The legal duty for teachers/schools to combat all forms of bullying is now enshrined in the Education Act 2006 and the Equality Act 2010 

Therefore regardless of what the SRE Guidance says about “promotion of sexual orientation” (whatever that even means!?)- schools and teachers can and should talk about sexual and gender identity and challenge all forms of bullying and discrimination.