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.

 

 

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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

S.O.What Squad- setting up an LGBT support group


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

The So What Squad (Sexual Orientation Whatever)* was set up in 2008 in a North London secondary school. A teacher at the school was leading on a project to tackle homophobia and as part of that work worked with a group of students to set up the group.

The groups name, logo, mission statement and aims were all developed by the students themselves. Their aim was to challenge discrimination and homophobia/transphobia and provide a safe space for any LGBT students within the school. In fact several students felt so comfortable as a result of the group that they were able to come out to family and friends which was a massive step for them and all of them reported it was a very positive one. The group absolutely was not only for LGBT students (whole point was Sexual Orientation- Whatever!- So what!? It really didn’t matter in the group*). As a result of the group and the campaigns run within the school there was a marked reduction in the previous homophobic/transphobic language and bullying that seemed commonplace.

This post was started in response to watching Jamie- Drag Queen at 16 shown on BBC3 recently as it showed how his school were not dealing very well at all with Jamie’s wish to go to his prom in a dress. (And it was incredibly touching how his peers supported him in the end!). Although sadly all the founding members of the SoWhat squad have moved on from the school and as far as we know it isn’t running in the same capacity at the school any more, we hope that these posts will help inspire and support other schools in creating safe spaces for LGBT students and challenging the endemic culture of homophobia and transphobia that exists in our schools.

These posts aim to support other young people, teachers, youth workers, parents or anyone else in setting up a SoWhatSquad in their school. You are welcome to use any of our materials or use our ideas to develop your own stuff. We’d love to know how you get on please email sexedukation at googlmail.com. (Also feel free to email any specific issues or questions and we will do our best to answer them and if appropriate use them to write blogposts to support other people!)

* A note about the SO What- standing for “Sexual Orientation Whatever”, the group was inclusive although on reflection our name could be seen as excluding the transgendered community, this was absolutely not intentional. The name was developed by the students as they loved the notion of “So What!? As in it really doesn’t/shouldn’t matter! but perhaps a more fitting name might be “student orientation whatever” or something. Most importantly the name should fit your group- so if “So What” as a name doesn’t work for you- choose another that does!

An open letter to Matthew Offord MP re. same sex marriage, teachers and schools


Dear Matthew Offord,

I was genuinely shocked to read your response to Nick Lansley’s partner about same sex marriage, as it seems you are suffering from some very basic misconceptions about how schools and how sex and relationships education should work. As I am not one of your constituents I thought I would write an open response to you on my blog.

Before I go into your problematic response about schools I need to ask you about your statements:

“It is my strong personal, moral and religious belief that the institution of marriage is to provide the foundation of a stable relationship in which those two people of the opposite sex procreate and raise a child. That is physically not possible for same-sex couples so I don’t see the point of introducing a law to allow this”

Can I just ask you where you stand on opposite sex couples who are infertile? Who don’t ever want children? Who marry past the age of menopause? Should they still have the legal right to marry? Based on your statements I would assume you would be campaigning for an end to marriage in these cases, or do they get an exemption because they are heterosexual?

In your letter you stated:

“In regard to education, Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 places a legal requirement on schools to teach children about “the importance of marriage”. If marriage is redefined, schools will have no choice but to give children equivalent teaching on same sex marriage, even those children of a very young age, including those at primary school.”

Can I ask you exactly what you think is wrong about that? The 1996 law is sixteen years old and needs updating as does the whole of the legislation and guidance relating to Sex and Relationships Education. We currently only have the 2000 DfE SRE guidance (twelve years out of date) and we are still waiting on the outcomes from the PSHE review. Both the law and guidance pre-dates the Section 28 Legislation (which only actually ever applied to local authorities not schools directly) and also needs to be updated in light of that. There is no mention of civil partnerships in the guidance for example. I absolutely agree with you that teaching about marriage is very important, but I would argue that teaching about equality, tolerance and respect is even more so.

What exactly is your issue with primary school children talking about same sex marriage? Are you falling for the classic ignorant assumption that discussing sexual orientation means you also have to talk about sexuality and sexual activity? You really can separate the two out you know- talking about gay marriage to primary school children does not mean you have to talk about “gay sex” at all. (By the way the concept of “gay sex” is erroneous anyway. Being a sex and relationships educator I do feel I have to point out that the spectrum of sexual activity is NOT confined to one particular sexual orientation. Any sexual activity you can think of can be carried out whether you are in a same sex or opposite sex relationship.)

Alternatively are your worries that talking about same sex marriage to primary school children might make them gay? I have worked with young people for 12 years now, let me tell you that talking to young people about different sexual orientations DOES NOT MAKE THEM GAY. What it absolutely does do is make them more tolerant, respectful and understanding of people’s differences. Can I ask you if you think it is acceptable for a young person to be bullied because of their perceived sexual orientation? To live in constant fear of persecution by people who don’t understand them? 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. 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. I strongly believe widespread teaching of such lessons would go a huge way in reducing incidences of homophobic bullying and violence. Surely you agree that a reduction in hate crime is a good thing?

Your letter makes it clear you are a man of faith however all major religions teach tolerance and respect and you absolutely can teach about different sexual orientations in a way that does not conflict with faith views. What you seemed to be advocating was that schools be absolutely silent on the issue of sexual orientation, which can only lead to more bullying and violence against individuals who may or may not turn out to be gay but they are perceived to be “different”.

Thanks to addressing issues of homophobia within my previous school, a girl who had previously contemplating drastic steps because of her sexual orientation, had the confidence to confide in me she was a lesbian and from there was able to come out to her mum. Her mum later said to me “I’m glad that she could talk to someone when she couldn’t face me with it, and I’m grateful and relieved that the school were there to support her, without the support who knows what she could have done.” I made a difference to that girl’s life and since then I have devoted my teaching career to supporting young people and the people that work with them around issues in Sex & Relationships Education. It is not over the top to say it really can save lives. Thankfully schools now have a moral and legal duty (see Equality Act 2010) to support all students regardless of ability, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion, and when given the opportunities they do this very well indeed.

You asked “So what will happen to parents who because of religious, or philosophical beliefs take their children out of lessons? ” I also would very much like an answer to that. Parents currently have the right to opt out of Sex and relationships education lessons (but less than 1% do). I would argue that young people should all have an entitlement to sex and relationships education lessons- and if it is not provided by the school then I would expect parents to provide it including teaching about different sexual orientations. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB) people EXIST, parents simply cannot deny that. They have existed for more than the 2000 years you are glad that “homophobia” has been enshrined for. Well you actually called your homophobic beliefs “views” you stated:-

“Discriminated against and persecuted because they hold views that have been enshrined in our laws and have been the cornerstone of our society for two thousand years.”.

Can you please give me a “for instance” where someone with “views” such as yours has been “persecuted or discriminated against” to the same level as someone who is LGB (or Transgender). Has your stance in life ever led to Verbal abuse? Violent assaults? Being disowned? Murder? Suicide? No? Then please do not be so insulting as to be speaking from a position of privilege and claiming the same level of victimisation. Because it simply IS NOT TRUE.

Your letter asked:

And what of the teachers who object to teaching about same sex marriage. Will they face disciplinary action? How will it affect their careers?

Currently all teachers are expected to have the ability to teach Sex & Relationships Education. It is enshrined in QTS 21 of the Qualified Teacher Standards (although this is likely to change following the current review of teacher skills requirements). However thankfully many schools only ask for teachers willing to cover such topics to cover them, usually they will get additional training for this. This is important. I strongly believe no teacher should ever be forced to teach a subject they are not comfortable or trained in. All teachers are expected to uphold the law and school policies. This includes the Equality Act which “makes discrimination against someone for their real or perceived sexual orientation illegal in the provision of goods, services and facilities. Section 13 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations says that all students have an equal right to education, regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation.” Therefore I would argue that teachers absolutely should teach about same sex marriage as part of sex and relationships lessons, but I absolutely agree it needs clarifying in law for those teachers in schools expecting all teachers to provide sex and relationships education. Having an ignorant homophobic bigot deliver lessons about homophobia could be incredibly damaging for the young people in those lessons and they are my priority. Not the tiny minority of teachers who may have views that conflict with their duties and responsibilities as teachers and who damage their own careers accordingly. Thankfully the vast vast majority of teachers I know are very supportive of challenging homophobia in schools when given sufficient support and training to do so. They know the damage homophobia can do to our young people.

You also asked:

Will same sex marriage be covered under such subjects as citizenship forming part of the main curriculum taught to our children and tested through examination?”

PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) and Citizenship are two very distinct but complimentary subjects. The law and curriculum surrounding both of them could definitely do with clarifying and updating, but I think you will find that the current debate about changing the law around same sex marriage has already been covered in many citizenship lessons across the land already. It is relevant to the subject and topical. I suspect some students may end up doing coursework on it. It’s already happening. Is that a problem for you?

You stated you have a “strong personal, moral and religious belief” in “the institution of marriage”, As a happily married heterosexual woman I also have a strong personal moral and faith in marriage, I strongly believe it is an institution all couples in loving relationships should be able to enter. In fact Chief Justice Margaret Goodridge said it far better than me:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.”

Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition. Tangible as well as intangible benefits flow from marriage. The benefits accessible only by way of a marriage license are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death. It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a civil right. “

It was my personal and professional values and attitudes that compelled me to respond to your letter. Finally you stated “I do not believe that same sex marriage would serve to enhance British society or its values.” Could you please explain to me how same sex marriage would affect “British Society and values” in any other way than show we are a tolerant and accepting nation that recognises and celebrates individual human rights?

Yours Sincerely

A Teacher of Equality, Compassion, Empathy and Respect.