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.
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In my experience the vast vast majority of parents are supportive of schools delivering Sex and Relationship Education. They may have some concerns about the material or how to support their child with it, but by engaging with the school about the content of the curriculum then many of these fears can be alleviated. I have only ever had two students (out of the hundreds possibly thousands I have taught) who have been withdrawn from the lessons following discussions with the parents (and one of these students actually chose to withdraw himself although his parents didn’t mind as much! In the end I decided he deserved this right to withdraw himself on this occasion although technically legally he probably didn’t!). Other parents seeking to withdraw were reassured after meetings with me and viewing the materials etc. Parents and schools have to work together on sex and relationships education, to ensure it is the best possible learning for their child.
Something I have always been aware of is that those who shout the loudest are getting heard. The thing is in sex and relationships education those loud voices are often the very anti-sex education voices, these voices are in a minority but they sometimes have the power to sway the content and curriculum in their favour so that it no longer represents the majority view, and it’s the children and young people who miss out as a result (don’t forget young people often complain sex and relationships education is often “too little, too late, too biological“.)
So what I am asking is if you are a parent supportive of your child’s school delivering Sex and Relationships education- get involved. Champion it in your child’s school. Work with the school to develop it so it is the best it can possibly be for your child. Get your voice heard too- Please for the sake of the children!