On Tuesday 11 June, NAHT held a parliamentary briefing in Westminster on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education. With just a few weeks remaining of the summer term, the event brought together some of the main figures involved in efforts to stop the anti-equality protests in Birmingham that have been making national headlines.
Speakers included Emma Hardy MP, Sara Khan, lead commissioner of the Commission for Countering Extremism and David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Nazir Afzal, former Crown Chief Prosecutor for the North West also submitted a short video where he called on the government to mandate the correct approach and to take the heat off of schools. You can watch this video in full below.
Primary school leaders in Birmingham and some other areas of the country have been the targets of campaigning, protests and abuse relating to their commitment to equality and diversity, and the teaching of LGBT+ inclusive relationships. School leaders Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head teacher of Anderton Park Primary School and Andrew Moffat, deputy head teacher of Parkfield Primary School spoke about their experiences of dealing with the protests in their schools in Birmingham.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “Without meaning to, the government has put school leaders in an extremely difficult position. They and their staff have had to endure threats against their careers and their personal safety. The protests need to end, and the best way to achieve that is for the government to be absolutely clear about what they expect schools to do.”
NAHT is calling for clarity from the government on three key areas:
- Relationships Education in primary schools must be inclusive of all protected characteristics and treat the different types of relationships in our society equally, reflecting their equal status under the law and so promoting tolerance and respect for diversity.
- Relationships Education in all schools will include LGBT content as set out in the statutory guidance that has already been published. In addition to that guidance, the DfE has said: “Primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it age-appropriate to do so” which is not helpful to school leaders. The correct wording should be: “Primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content when they consider it age-appropriate to do so”.
- School leaders and their teams should receive the full support of the government and the full protection of the relevant authorities when delivering Relationships Education.
Over the past few months, NAHT has been supporting the schools under protest, as well as working with the DfE and others to try to bring a swift resolution. Mr Whiteman said: “Whilst schools are required to involve parents and the community in what they’re planning to teach, that engagement does not provide parents or others with a veto on curriculum content. Equality is not an ‘optional extra.’"
We will continue to press the government for clarity in these areas. Please find a pledge card below to send to your local MP to sign.
First published 18 June 2019