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

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that so many schools have taken down their problematic SRE Policies,  but some schools are claiming the policy was out of date (by more than 10 years- really!?)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

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

404: The governing body of a maintained school shall—

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

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

                                                                     (emphasis mine)

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

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

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

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

“It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”

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

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

Can we blame them?

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

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

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

To do otherwise fails another generation.

Dear Schools (Academies?) having “SECTION 28” in your school Sex Ed Policy is NOT acceptable.

Just been made aware of this petition and with the help of twitter pals we have identified at least NINE academies (identified so far…) have been using versions of the same policy* (some are still using it, some have been using it until recently when made aware of the issues with it and are now in the process of updating it). Another blogger has uncovered where these policies probably originated from.

Versions of this SRE policy document state under the section on “Homosexuality”**

11 Homosexuality
11.1 The Governing Body recognises the need to address the issue of homosexuality and the need to provide education related to the spread of HIV/AIDS which will, of necessity, include reference to homosexuals and bisexuals. Objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom.
11.2 The Governing Body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality.

(emphasis mine)

or words to the effect of “Teachers should not promote homosexuality”

I don’t have time to unpick all the reasons why this policy statement is SO WRONG (as I am trying to actually write my Masters dissertation into challenging homophobia in schools!) but very quickly:

a) Homosexuality is outdated and somewhat offensive terminology- talking about sexual identity is much more inclusive including Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) as well as Gender Identity including discussion of gender non-conformism and trans*

b) SECTION 28 HAS BEEN REPEALED. Teachers now have a legal duty to challenge homophobia and promote equality. Yes the current SRE guidance may contravene the Equality Act and yes even the English and Welsh Governments are confused when interpreting the legislation. BUT even mentioning “PROMOTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY” the exact terminology of Section 28 is just so wrong. Schools can and should talk about sexual and gender identity and address homophobia. Putting it in school policy like this effectively gags teachers who could make such a difference to students who identify as LGB and/or T. remember teachers are legally bound to follow school policies- contravening them can lead to disciplinary or even dismissal.

c)HIV/AIDS IS NOT A “GAY DISEASE”. Making an explicit link like that in the policy is offensive.

I am very disappointed that schools think this is an acceptable document to use as their school policy, but I am hopeful that it is a case of schools getting an “off the shelf, generic policy” put in place quickly and not thinking it through or discussing it properly and that the schools will be open to developing a more appropriate school policy.

*Further checking reveals some of these documents maybe in process of being updated and I hope their new policy are vastly improved I would be happy to help any school with developing an appropriate school policy- just ask! With hindsight I have deleted the direct link to the school policy involved and am not naming individual schools on this blog as I don’t think scapegoating and “making an example of” individual schools is the answer as it has emerged this problem is too widespread and actually all schools need to check and update their policies.