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Today is 10 years to the day since Section 28 was repealed.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

 

 

 

“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.

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.

Feedback from young people involved in SO What


Previously I ran a blog called So What Squad alongside this one, but time constraints meant I needed to fine tune my social media presence, so I am moving all the posts over to this blog. This is the sixth of six posts.

Students shared with me their thoughts about being part of SoWhat (Spellings are theirs!).

“When I first joined the SO What Squad in our school it was barely a group at all. It didn’t have a name, the school didn’t know we existed, and most of the students didn’t know what we were trying to achieve. Or even some of the teachers, for that matter. But that is exactly for me why it seemed so important to start up.

In many ways, homophobic bullying can seem a silent form of bullying. People use derogatory phrases all the time that would never be picked up on – ‘that’s so gay’, for instance – unless it was something that personally upset you, as it does for many young, LGBT students. Not only that, but it surprises a lot of people to hear the range of homophobic bullying, that many heterosexual students have experienced it too.

As part of the group, we went to an anti-bullying conference in our local area where it discussed a range of different techniques to ensure that schools and colleges have as little an amount of bullying as possible. One really interesting seminar discussed how homophobia is tackled in primary schools, not by looking out for aggressive behaviour or derogatory language as we had focused on, but by broadcasting acceptance, and teaching children that people with difference backgrounds, families, people from different races and religions, people of different sexual orientations were all ordinary people, just like everyone else. The leader of the seminar, a teacher who identified as LGBT, was able to discuss the fact that he was gay with his older students, and told us how on seeing a figure of authority, a person that they liked, as gay, the students easily accepted it, and as far as he was aware there was no homophobic bullying within that group.

I think if we were to go back and change the way we established SO What at our school, it would be less focused on the bullying, and more focused on the need for acceptance and appreciation of different people, spreading the message that diversity may seem strange and unfamiliar, but it is good. I feel we needed to spread campaigns such as ‘It Gets Better’, which has a hopeful message for victims who may feel upset or dejected. The younger that people learn that LGBT is no more a label than heterosexuality is, the quicker we can hope that in schools in the future it will be better.

Lucy, Former SoWhatSquad member.

I am a former member of the SoWhatSquad and i am proud to say that the logo design was my idea, my most creative piece yet.
Seeing homophobic bullying was very common before the group started up. The term “Gay” was used in everyones regular vocabulary. A person didnt need to actually be or identify themselves as part of LGBT to get called names and be taunted, if they showed stereotypical attirbutes of a LGBT person, they would be targeted.
The group for some was a place to retreat and feel welcome. It didnt matter if you were part of LGBT Group or just had views on the matter, everyone was treated equally. The logo which was displayed around school was a sign that our school was not going to tolerate any discrimination.

It is a shame however that the group, as former students left, is no longer as prominent in the school community, although i have noticed more students in the school which would identify themselves under the LGBT group and could be in need of a SoWhat Squad.

If i had the chance to relay or help build such groups in other schools, i think it would benefit a huge amount of people, to be themselves, to feel comfortable and to be happy in their school years.

K- Former SoWhat Member

“The so what squad helped a few people i knew come out as well as myself. Ii only had one friend who knew that i was a lesbian but apart from that my life involved a hell of a lot of lying! I didn’t know many gay people at the time and whenever i heard a conversation about homosexuals it was negative. By the time i had joined the so what club i had already come out to a lot of people and most was good and well except i had not told my family yet. The so what squad helped me tell my mum etc by providing me with a safe postive environment where i felt normal an could talk about my fears with people who were in the same position as me. The so what squad was really helpful and what have been an even greater help if i knew about it when i was figuring out i was gay i know it helped a lot of people and schools should definatlly have some sort of group to support other children.”

J- Former SoWhat Member

Another Student who went to set up So What in their college wrote this about their school experience:

As a young gay person growing up in a school with no openly gay students and staff, and an under current of homophobia amongst my peers, I felt incredibly isolated. The homophobia in the school was systemic; it was a very hostile environment and homophobia was routinely unchallenged. As a result I did not feel it was a safe space to come out in. I censor my feeling and behaviours, and became incredibly self loathing. As a result I acted out and began to perform the homophobic actions and behaviours I saw. It was only after leaving the school and that I was able to become the real me. I came out and my confidence grew: my grades improved significantly and I was able to shake off the feeling I was lying to people.

12 common questions about sexual orientation to use with students


Previously I ran a blog called So What Squad alongside this one, but time constraints meant I needed to fine tune my social media presence, so I am moving all the posts over to this blog. This is the fifth of six posts.
The question and answers below were developed from a fab PDF resource from an activity for Life planning education program produced by Advocates for youth. However some of the terms we weren’t happy with and as it is an American resource we angliscised it slightly and also had colleagues from Stonewall to vet the answers to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible.
You could do this in a lesson (the resultant discussion may take up an entire lesson!): With the class either ask students to come up with their own questions about sexual orientation or ask the class the following frequently asked questions. Discuss each question using the answers below as a guide.

1) How many people are lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB)?

It is estimated between 5 and 10% of all people are LGB. However, there is no hard data on the number of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in theUKas no national census has ever asked people to define their sexuality. Also many people hide their sexual orientation to protect themselves against stigma and discrimination. Various sociological/commercial surveys have produced a wide range of estimates, but there is no definitive figure available. Within the next couple of years, data about sexual orientation will be included in national data sets and sexual orientation will be monitored more habitually, for example in job applications so clearer statistics will be developed and we will all have to become accustomed to answering questions about our sexual orientation.

2) What makes people gay?

It is not known what makes people gay, lesbian or bisexual just as it is not known what makes people heterosexual. Biology may play a role either in genetics or within the womb. There is no evidence to suggest how you are brought up affects your sexual orientation. Reinforce that it is not a choice whether or not you are gay, just as you cannot choose your ethnicity.

3) Is being gay a disease?

Homosexuality is not an illness of any kind-mental or physical. On 17th May 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders ending centuries of medically legitimized homophobia. Because ‘homosexual’ was the medical term to describe being LGB as a disease, many LGB people still find the term offensive and often prefer to be identified as ‘lesbian, gay or bisexual.’ Remember we should respect how other people identify themselves.

4) How do I know if I am lesbian, gay or bisexual?

Some people know from an early age that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual and others may take longer to realise or come to terms with their identity- remember social pressure to be heterosexual can make it hard for people to accept being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Sadly, many people don’t come out until much later in their lives, after living a ‘heterosexual’ life because of social pressure or being unable to accept their identity. Just because someone has lived many years as ‘heterosexual’- this doesn’t make their identity as LGB any less valid when they do eventually ‘come out.’ As public attitudes towards LGB people become more accepting it should become easier for people to ‘come out’ earlier in their lives. Many people have same-sex relationships or sexual experiences at any point in their lives but do not identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Its up to each person to define their sexual orientation.

5) Can you always tell if someone is lesbian or gay?

No, the only to know if a person is lesbian, gay or bisexual is if they tell you. There are as many different types of people in the LGB community, as there are in the heterosexual community so relying on stereotypes about how LGB people look and behave won’t tell you anything.

6) Is it against the law to be homosexual?

Laws making it illegal to be lesbian or gay would violate the most basic human rights of an individual. In most parts of the world including the UKit is NOT illegal to be gay. However some countries have criminalised sexual activity between two people of the same sex. Punishments for breaking these laws can be fines, imprisonment or even the death sentence. See Avert age of consent chart for more information- http://www.avert.org/aofconsent.htm. In theUK the age of consent for 2 people to have sex is 16 regardless of sexual orientation.

7) Do gay men, lesbians and bisexuals try to make other people LGB?

It is not possible to ‘change’ or ‘turn’ someone’s sexual orientation and LGB people are more aware of this than anyone. Some people within the heterosexual community may try to ‘turn’ LGB people heterosexual or tell them it is wrong to be LGB. This is discrimination- we should accept everyone for who they are. It is a myth that lesbian and gay men want to have sex with everyone of the same sex. In the same way that within the heterosexual community there are many types of relationship and sexual practices, so it is the same within the LGB community and many lesbian and gay couples have long term monogamous relationships in the same way that mixed sex couples do.

8) How do two men or two women actually have sex?

Two men or two women have sex in most of the same ways that straight couples do. It may involve mutual masturbation, oral sex, penetrative sex (vaginal or anal), using sex toys and having orgasms together. These activities are not exclusively for people within opposite sex relationships or same sex relationships.

9) Is HIV a gay disease?

No across the world HIV is mostly transmitted through heterosexual sex. Having anal sex is a significant risk factor in transmitting sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Straight couples have been found to be less likely to use condoms for anal sex than gay men. Although when HIV/AIDS was first discovered it was the gay community in theUKthat was hardest hit, the infection level is now much higher in heterosexuals than gay men.

10) Do gay men sexually abuse little boys?

Most cases of sexual abuse actually involve heterosexual men, not gay men. Perhaps as many as 85-90% of sexual abusers are heterosexuals and a family member or friend of the family. Paedophilia – being attracted to children is in no way linked to being gay. This is very offensive myth about gay men. Remember that since 2002 same-sex couples can adopt and many gay men now have families and are parents in the same way that heterosexual couples are,

11) Why are gay men so camp? Or gay women so butch?

These are stereotypes about the LGB community. Not all gay men are “camp” and not all gay women are “butch” (and using these words can cause offence to some people). Making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation because of the way they look or behave is discrimination. Just because a man or a woman does not fit into a perceived stereotype of masculinity or femininity, does not make them gay or lesbian. There are many different types of lesbians and gay men as there are heterosexual people. Think about your group of friends- do you all look the same, dress the same, act in the same way? Of course not, so why would a whole community all look, dress and act identically!

12) Why don’t gay men or lesbians just have a sex change?

People who want to have a sex change are called “transsexual” or “transgender”. Some people feel they have been born into the wrong body and undergo an operation to change their sex so that their body matches the way they feel as a person. Other people may dress up as the other gender but not want to have a sex change (“Transvestites or Cross-dressers). Gender identity is different to sexual orientation. Both heterosexual and homosexual people can be “trans”. Trans people have a sexual orientation as well as a gender identity and the two are not related. Trans people may identify as heterosexual or LGB.

Why set up a SO What squad


Previously I ran a blog called So What Squad alongside this one, but time constraints meant I needed to fine tune my social media presence, so I am moving all the posts over to this blog. This is the fourth of six posts.

Taken from from Stonewall’s School Report which can be viewed here (N.B Stonewall have produced an updated 2012 version of the school report- here)

Homophobia in Schools

Homophobic bullying is almost epidemic inBritain’s schools. Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying.

Even if gay pupils are not directly experiencing bullying, they are learning in an environment where homophobic language and comments are commonplace. Ninety eight per cent of young gay people hear the phrases “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” in school, and over four fifths hear such comments often or frequently.

Ninety seven per cent of pupils hear other insulting homophobic remarks, such as “poof”, “dyke”, “rug-muncher”, “queer” and “bender”. Over seven in ten gay pupils hear those phrases used often or frequently. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of young gay people have been told that homophobic bullying is wrong in their school. In schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, gay young people are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied.

Over half of lesbian and gay pupils don’t feel able to be themselves at school. Thirty five per cent of gay pupils do not feel safe or accepted at school.

Why set up a So What Squad?

  • This culture of homophobia and discrimination needs to be challenged and LGBT young people need a safe space in schools. This can be achieved by setting up a So What Squad- with a sample mission statement of; “The So What squad aims to promote acceptance and education of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues and eliminate ignorance and discrimination as well as provide a safe space for LGBT students”

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Sample initial letter for school newsletters about tackling homophobia


Previously I ran a blog called So What Squad alongside this one, but time constraints meant I needed to fine tune my social media presence, so I am moving all the posts over to this blog. This is the third of  six posts.

Below is a letter I sent out in the school newletter about tackling homophobia at our school and informing parents of the existence of the SoWhat Squad. I was expecting some parental backlash given our parents. I never heard a negative comment. It was brilliant! Feel free to amend adapt for your parents.

Anti-Bullying work at XXXX

XXXXX is actively working on an anti-bullying project to update our anti-bullying policy and to raise awareness of bullying and its unacceptability. We’re combating all forms of bullying, and wish to educate pupils on specific issues one by one. We’ve chosen initially to specifically focus on homophobic bullying because we’ve observed a significant number of incidents in the school and schools now have a legal duty to ensure homophobic bullying is dealt with (Education and Inspections Act 2006).

Homophobic language such as “that’s so gay” has now become commonplace and this is propagating a culture of homophobia within schools. Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of young lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) pupils will have experienced direct bullying within school however in schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, LGB young people are 60 per cent less likely to have been bullied.

As a school we have adopted the stance that homophobic bullying is unacceptable in our school. We are also establishing a zero-tolerance approach to homophobia and homophobic language. Since we started this we have noted a reduction in the use of homophobic language and a raised student awareness of its unacceptability. We are also developing curriculum opportunities within PSHE and Citizenship that examine this issue. In addition a student group has been established to help combat discrimination amongst peers and to provide a safe space for LGB students at the school.

If you would like to find out more please visit the school website where further information about homophobic bullying is available or contact the following members of staff who have been working on this project: XXXX XXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX


Eight steps to setting up a SO What squad


Previously I ran a blog called So What Squad alongside this one, but time constraints meant I needed to fine tune my social media presence, so I am moving all the posts over to this blog. This is the second of six posts.

1. Get Senior management on board. You can’t do this without them!

2. Once you have the okay from SLT. Get teachers on board- mention what you intend to in staff briefings etc. Find a supportive network of teachers who want to help (they don’t have to give any time commitment but knowing they are also on your side will really help you feel not like you have undertaken a David and Goliath task!)

3. Mention you want to set up a SoWhat Squad in every lesson and ask if students are interested in joining- ask them to tell their friends. Get your supportive teachers to mention it to their form groups etc. Get it announced in assembly. Once you have a list of a few students who want to attend set up an initial meeting to brainstorm what the group will look like.

4. Initial meeting- discuss what the group aims to do- our group came up with this one:

“The So What Squad aims to promote acceptance and education of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues and eliminate ignorance and discrimination as well as provide a safe space for LGBT students”

Yours doesn’t have to be the same- make sure the group own it! If it will help invite an outside person in from Stonewall or School’s out to help you with the first meeting and planning.

5. Plan your meetings- what activities will you do? What time and where will meetings be held? (consider a time and place that meets the students needs- we found friday after school in a tucked away classroom to be the best as some students were worried about being “outed” if they were seen attending. In fact I had one student who came every week for “detention” with me just so he could attend the meetings. He was a fairly good kid so it was a stretch but it was important to provide him with that cover so he could still attend the safe space. Even to the other kids in the group he was in “detention” to them until he felt more comfortable.

6. Launch the group- advertise via posters, assembly announcements, school counsellor referrals, word of mouth. Also send a letter home in the newsletter to inform parents about the group (you can see a sample letter I wrote here.)

7. Have fun! There are so many different ideas and activities your group can try out. We did logo design, badge making, campaigning, eating biscuits and gossiping and all sorts. It was brilliant.

8. Ensure sustainability- how will you get the group to keep going if you leave the school, or the students leave (many of our group were in the 6th form).

Any questions? Email Sexedukation at googlemail.com