Some religious schools in the UK have faced some rebuke from Ofsted, the educational watchdogs for failing to teach students what they call ”respect for diversity” because they have refused to include education on LGBTQ+ issues.
However, the Sunday Times has recently reported that private primary schools are going to be given a broad opt-out under new plans.
The change follows a consultation on reforms to the independent school regulatory system that was launched in March by the Education secretary Damian Hinds.
The former agreement had set stated that the acceptable standards for schools “[require] active promotion of respect for other people, even if they hold views, choose to follow a lifestyle, or have protected characteristics, different from a pupil’s own or those prevalent in the pupil’s immediate community,” adding that students must be made aware of the Equality Act’s protected characteristics — which includes “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” — in an “age-appropriate way.”
According to the reports by Sunday times, After the lobbying from faith primary schools, the former requirement has been watered down and the government’s yet to be published response on the matter will state that independent primary schools shouldn’t be failed by the watchdog body Ofsted for refusing to teach about LGBT+ issues in their institutions.
The move by the government has been seen as caving in to the demands from faith schools that do not want to teach children on LGBTQ+ issues.
“Whether or not young children should be taught about LGBT issues and gay families in schools has been a battleground for ages. This looks like a government U-turn. Jewish, Christian and Muslim groups have bitterly resisted the requirement to teach alternative lifestyles, with protests and placards. If this loophole is granted to independent schools, there will be a big push for this in state primary schools too.” Professor Alan Smithers of the Buckingham University told the Sunday Times.
A spokesman for the Education department shared with the publication that: “Independent schools, like all schools, have to promote respect for other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics under the 2010 Equalities Act.”
This information comes as the UK government conducts a separate consultation on sex education and relationships in schools which is scheduled to run till November.
For the first time since the year 2000, the UK government is drawing up a new Relationship and sex education guidance and has taken an interest in LGBT+ topics as a primary area to be addressed along with new materials focused on consent, domestic abuse, and the internet.
It reads: “By the end of primary school, pupils should know that others’ families, either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children’s families are also characterized by love and care for them.”
The RSE provision is set to be made mandatory in independent schools, academics, and free schools from 2020. However, the details of the new regulation allow a varying degree of freedom that some institutions might take advantage of.