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Parents and teachers back LGBTQ primary lessons

Parents should not be able to withdraw their children from lessons about LGBT relationships, according to a new survey by Leeds Beckett University.

LGBTQ integration

The study was carried out following demonstrations opposed to primary schools in Birmingham and Manchester delivering the LGBT curriculum programme, No Outsiders.

Professor Jonathan Glazzard and Samuel Stones, from the university’s Carnegie School of Education, surveyed 366 parents and teachers.

In total, 88% of the respondents did not agree that parents should have a right to withdraw their children from primary school lessons about LGBT people.

The majority (94%) felt that it was important that schools teach children about LGBT identities.

The same proportion (94%) felt that schools had a responsibility to promote LGBT inclusion (this is not the same as promoting a lifestyle).

According to the survey, 88% agreed or strongly agreed that schools were not promoting a sexual orientation or gender identity through teaching children about LGBT people and relationships, indicating that respondents understood that the role of the school was to raise awareness that different types of identities and relationships exist.

Respondents were less confident about teaching children about different kinds of identities from the age of four.

Only 76% agreed that “schools should teach children about different kinds of relationships from the age of four”.

A lower proportion (73%) agreed that “schools should teach same sex-marriage from the age of four”.

Only 50% of respondents agreed that “schools should teach children about transgender identities from the age of four”.

Professor Glazzard and Mr Stones said: “It is possible that respondents feel that young children need to be protected from learning about LGBT identities and relationships, either because they feel that the content will cover sex or because they believe that young children are easily influenced.

“This raises some interesting issues. Firstly, some children at the age of four have same-sex parents.

“They are aware of same-sex relationships and they may have brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles in their family who identity as LGBT.

“If these identities are not visible in the school curriculum they can start to feel that their lives are not reflected in the school.

“Secondly, it is interesting to note that there is divided opinion on the teaching of same-sex marriage, despite the fact that in the early years children learn about heterosexual relationships through topics on ‘family’ and role-plays of mock straight weddings.

“Why is it acceptable to teach children about heterosexual relationships and not about LGBT relationships and identities?

“The data suggests that there might be a view that exposing young children to different kinds of people and relationships is somehow harmful.

“The findings also suggest significant resistance to teaching children about transgender identities which indicates negativity towards the transgender community.

“Research suggests that people’s identities will not change through inclusive sexuality education.

“Therefore, teaching children about LGBT identities will not suddenly make them LGBT.”

One respondent who identified as a teacher and a parent said: “I whole-heartedly believe we should be teaching LGBT in primary schools in an age appropriate way and that children must learn about the many variations of identity and relationships that are in the world.

“At my school we have the same community issues as has been experienced in Birmingham and although I believe this shouldn't stop us from teaching this curriculum, it's not as simple as just getting on with it.

“Having said that, it could be made easier for schools to just get on with it no matter what the community feeling is if teachers were supported fully by the Department for Education and OFSTED.

“At the moment these two bodies are sitting on the fence and placing the decision making with schools which is unfair and creates huge difficulties for schools like ours.

“I also think that the language and explanation of this curriculum creates misunderstandings with communities which, once there, are difficult to break.”

Professor Glazzard and Mr Stones said: “The curriculum simply seeks to educate children that people and relationships are different, but differences should be respected and celebrated.

“Young children need to be aware of LGBT people and relationships because the school curriculum should prepare children for life in a socially inclusive society.

“They will meet LGBT people in school, college, university and work and therefore they need to be exposed to difference from a young age.

“The LGBT curriculum does not teach children about sex. It teaches children about identities and relationships.

“If it is acceptable for children to learn about heterosexual relationships and identities, it is acceptable for them to learn about LGBT relationships and identities.

“Schools play a critical role in confronting and challenging prejudice. These duties are outlined in the 2010 Equality Act and the Public Sector Equality Duty.

“Schools must promote Fundamental British Values, one of which is the rule of law. In the United Kingdom the law says that it is legal to be LGBT and also that same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage are also legal. There should be no restriction on the age that children learn this.”

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