Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act

Part of Petition - Closure of Heywood Crown Post Office – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 25th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 3:43 pm, 25th June 2019

Teaching about LGBT existence and relationships, and showing respect and legitimacy to all regardless of their sexual orientation, is something that has not been a feature of our school system for very long. That is because of the odious and appalling effects of section 28, which was passed in the 1980s in a circumstance that was very similar to some of the scare stories that we are hearing about the possible dire effects of simply teaching relationship and sex education in schools—something that we should have been doing generations ago. If we had done it generations ago, there would have been an awful lot more happy and well-adjusted people than those who have been monstered in the way they have for the way that they are in a system that was disfigured by the effects of section 28. Many years later, we are finally making progress on LGBT rights in law and reaching fantastic levels of formal equality in our law. That is one of the most important social reforms that the previous Labour Government were responsible for, and it has been continued, to their credit, by Administrations subsequently. I know of the Minister’s own personal commitment to this agenda.

Yet here we are in the middle of a similar kind of moral scare that is being whipped up by people who have a different agenda from the wellbeing of children and their adjustment to the facts and experience of 21st-century life in the UK. We have seen it exposed on television and in some of the closed Facebook groups of the individuals involved that are making claims about the sexual orientation of the teachers at this school, using language that I would not use in this Chamber. We have seen it in the mob reactions outside the school. It is not appropriate, however we do these things, that young primary school pupils should have to run a gauntlet of screaming demonstrators simply to get to school, with that noisy, vociferous, aggressive kind of shouting and chanting. That will be traumatic for any kind of young primary school pupil, and we should not be subjecting them to it. To be honest, no parents who believe that they are acting in the best interests of their children should be making them run such a gauntlet.

We know—I exempt my hon. Friend Mr Godsiff from this, although I wish he had let me ask him a question—that the motivations of some of those involved in this are reactionary. They are returners to an era where LGBT people should get back in the closet and hide and be ashamed of the way they are. We are not going to get back in the closet, or hide, or be ashamed of the way we are. Nor are we going to allow a generation of pupils who are now in school to go through what pupils in the ’80s had to go through because this Chamber let them down.

Nor are we going to allow this to happen in the name of religion. I am a humanist, and married to a Catholic. She does much work with LGBT religious organisations to try to put together across religions coalitions of moderate, decent, sensible religious people who recognise the right of LGBT people to exist, to have access to respect and dignity, and to have their rights in law. We must not put together this view that if somebody has a religious objection, then somehow there can be no debate about it from then on in. There are multiple views in religions about the legitimacy of LGBT rights. It is only on the far extremist fundamentalist fringes that we get the kind of hostility that is being shown on some of the Facebook groups of these campaigners. I would like to know a lot more about the network that is behind this, because it is a deliberate, reactionary attempt to take back progressive advance and decency for children.