Commons debate brings us one step closer to LGBT-inclusive teaching
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Commons debate brings us one step closer to LGBT-inclusive teaching

Over the last few weeks – and particularly in recent days – we’ve seen lots of debates in the news and online about whether children should be taught about LGBT families, people and relationships in school.

Our position – and the position of the hundreds of schools we work with – has always been that LGBT-inclusive teaching is essential to creating a better world for everyone. This teaching ensures children with LGBT parents see their families and lives reflected in their lessons. LGBT-inclusive education also supports every young person to develop inclusive and accepting attitudes from an early age. It also helps schools to meet their legal duties to promote respect for people with different backgrounds, including LGBT people.

That’s why we were so pleased to see so many MPs give such powerful speeches in favour of new regulations for teaching Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education in England’s schools in the Commons last night.

Unfortunately, the discussion didn’t come to a vote, which means we’ll have to wait until next Wednesday for the Commons to approve it. Many of the MPs who spoke in the debate highlighted the cross-party effort, led by MPs including Maria Miller, Sarah Champion, Stella Creasy and Justine Greening, that has been instrumental in driving this work forward, so we’re hoping this carries through when MPs come to vote for the regulations next week.

When the regulations pass through Parliament, from 2020 onwards, every secondary school in England will be required to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity, and every primary school in England will be required to teach about different families, which can include LGBT families.

LGBT children and young people – and particularly trans young people – are at much higher risk of poor mental health and bullying at school.

This will make a real difference – as Angela Eagle, Sarah Champion, James Frith, Anna Turley, Jess Phillips, Luke Pollard, Angela Rayner, Huw Merriman and Stephen Doughty said during the debate, LGBT children and young people – and particularly trans young people – are at much higher risk of poor mental health and bullying at school.

LGBT-inclusive education gives children and young people, including LGBT young people, the time and space to learn about the diversity that exists and makes our world beautiful.

Yesterday, we heard some confusing messages from the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP on parents’ ability to remove their children from inclusive education, that she later corrected.

It’s crucial the whole Government is clear that when the regulations are passed, they won’t allow parents to opt their children out of Relationships Education at primary school.

It’s crucial the whole Government is clear that when the regulations are passed, they won’t allow parents to opt their children out of Relationships Education at primary school.

To support the new regulations, it’s essential that all schools are supported to engage with parents and carers to explain how they will teach Sex Education and the benefits that open and inclusive Relationships and Sex Education has for all children – something that we know many schools are doing very effectively already.

Last night’s debate also came at a crucial time, where we’ve been seeing discriminatory attitudes and remarks about LGBT people and their relationships platformed online and in the media. For many in our community who grew up under and lived through Section 28, this has been deeply distressing.

If you don’t know, Section 28 was the law that banned schools from ‘promoting homosexuality’. Teachers and students alike were forced hide who they were and suffer in silence.

What’s been happening at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, along with a handful of other schools, has brought with it echoes of Section 28.

But while a small minority of individuals have spread misinformation to build opposition to LGBT-inclusive teaching, we’ve seen greater numbers of LGBT people and allies from all walks of life and faith backgrounds showing their unwavering support for inclusive schools.

Through our work with hundreds of faith schools, church schools, and schools with pupil faith majorities, we know that many of these schools are already delivering LGBT-inclusive teaching. As Wes Streeting MP powerfully said during the debate, our communities are stronger together. ‘If we build that kind of society, whatever our background and wherever we come from, we will all live in harmony together. That is the kind of society we need to build.’

By centring the messages of love, respect and acceptance that lie at the heart of world religions, they are creating LGBT-inclusive learning environments not in spite of their faith ethos, but because of it.

Especially in light of last week’s horrific attacks on Muslim communities in Christchurch, Surrey and East London, it’s more important than ever we work together to build bridges between marginalised communities and stand together in solidarity against efforts to divide us.

These new, inclusive subjects have the potential to usher in a new era of teaching that fosters understanding and acceptance of people from all walks of life, including LGBT people. Now we must come together to make this a reality.