A group of education academies in Britain are using wording from the notorious Clause 28 laws of the 1980s, which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in the classroom.
The controversial legislation passed under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, which was repealed ten years ago, stopped schools from teaching that homosexuality was normal or acceptable, and resulted in a campaign by gay rights groups against the Tories.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) says that 44 schools still have policies on sex and relationships education that “replicate” Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, or are “unhelpfully vague” on the issue. The Department of Education has asked officials to investigate.
Stonewall has claimed that Section 28 has not been fully eradicated from advice on the UK government’s own website, meaning schools have been inadvertently using the offensive wording in their policies for parents to read.
But the DfE said that its Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, from 2000, did not need updating because it was written with the repeal of Section 28 taken into account.
A DfE spokesman is quoted as saying: “What these schools have done is unacceptable. All schools can draw up their own sex education policy, but they must not discriminate unfairly on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
Among those listed by the BHA as having policies of concern are the three London-based Crest Academies and three Grace Academies, which run schools in the Midlands with a Christian ethos. On the Crest website, the sex education policy reads: “The Crest Academies and the Governing Body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality. Objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom.” Both academies were unavailable for comment today.
The renowned campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is spookily similar to Section 28 in Britain and the new anti-gay law in Russia. These schools are abusing their new freedoms to pressure teachers to teach gay issues in a way that will discourage them from saying anything positive that could be construed as ‘promotion’.”
Some schools identified by the BHA have already taken their policy statements down. Pavan Dhaliwal, head of public affairs at the BHA said: “It is unacceptable that, over a decade after the repeal of the pernicious Section 28, that these schools continue to enforce similar policies, while others have statements which are overly vague on this matter. All of the schools identified must review their sex and relationships education policies to ensure that all pupils are treated with equal respect and understanding, and that homophobic and transphobic bullying is stamped out.”
The Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, said: “Michael Gove must intervene to ensure all schools obey their duties under the Equality Act. It seems some schools, perhaps not knowingly, are still using guidance from before the repeal. Labour got rid of Section 28 to ensure that schools taught about homosexuality in an open and honest way. Homophobic bullying is still too common and we must ensure we redouble our efforts to tackle such prejudice.”