It feels good to be here agreeing on such an important issue. Thousands of children from all backgrounds and faiths walk into schools across the country every day who already know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans or just feel different but do not know it yet. They will get into school and face homophobic or transphobic bullying from other pupils—45% of primary school teachers have observed such bullying, and nearly half of all LGBT pupils are bullied for being LGBT in our secondary schools.
The Government risk undermining their efforts with the opt-outs. What are the Government saying to these children when they say that schools are not required to teach about LGBT inclusivity and diversity—that learning about heterosexual relationships is age-appropriate, but learning about LGBT families requires a PG rating? The introduction of statutory RSE was the chance to right this wrong, but the Government’s guidance must be beefed up.
New statutory relationships education at primary level is a unique chance to ensure that all young people develop inclusive attitudes to LGBT people from a young age. Inclusion from primary can prevent the development of prejudice and wipe out the bullying that leads to so many of our young people developing higher rates of mental health problems and that leads more LGBT young people to attempt suicide. Teaching about LGBT families as part of teaching about different families at primary age is vital to ensure that young people with LGBT parents see their families reflected in teaching.
I was disappointed to see the Education Secretary say in a piece for The Times today that it will be up to primary schools to decide whether or not to teach in an LGBT inclusive way. This felt too much like a disclaimer, and too much like a trailer for the guidance by way of assuring those objecting to it. Along with 58 of my colleagues from the Opposition, we wrote to the Education Secretary this week to ask that he take a look at the guidance and ensure that LGBT inclusivity in RSE teaching is a requirement, not just a recommendation with opt-outs. This has my full support, but I do think we need to go further.
At this point, I want to highlight that there are many gay men and women with deeply held religious views as well; they are not exclusive of each other. We need to concentrate far more on examples that highlight the cause and prove the argument on which we are joining together in unison this evening.