As parents, teachers and campaigners from both sides of the sex education debate seem to be shouting their case, it can feel a little like, "he who shouts loudest, wins". And currently, if you aren't a supporter of lessons incorporating LGBT themes, it can quite quickly feel as if your voice is being drowned out among the noise.
Generally, the media seems to have handed the megaphone to the LGBT lobby, with press coverage largely supportive of the schools involved. Anyone protesting has quickly been branded 'bigoted' and 'homophobic', with some referring to the peaceful protesters as a 'mob'.
But with protests set to continue around the country as the new school year begins, how can parents and teachers who support parental rights really make their voice heard? How can you effectively stand up to the arguments for teaching LGBT sex ed? What is the best way to engage in the debate surrounding sex education?
Here, I lay out five bad reasons to teach sex education in primary schools debunking the myths that surround the 'inclusive' LGBT themes, and suggest five things you can do to make your voice heard.
5 bad reasons for sex education
1. "It just teaches children about diversity"
The argument goes something like this:
"Teaching on LGBT relationships is all about teaching children about diversity and difference."
"LGBT themes in sex education simply teach children that different families exist."
If it were true that teaching on LGBT themes simply taught children that different kinds of families existed, there may not be such a problem. However, the reality is that the teaching goes further than simply stating that there are differences: rather, as we have seen time and again, teaching on LGBT relationships encourages children to celebrate these kinds of lifestyles and practices, thus normalising LGBT.
Yet LGBT is not normal, nor should it be celebrated. Ultimately, it is destructive – sex is to be enjoyed within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman. Christianity is not the only religion to teach this, as Muslim and Jewish protesters demonstrate.
The fact is, that according to law, schools should not be promoting the beliefs of any one group over another. When schools begin to proselytise LGBT lifestyles to children, they are abusing their power and position as educators.
Furthermore, a quick look through the books and material used in schools shows how young children are more likely to be confused and encouraged to question their own gender and sexuality than to simply 'accept differences'.
The controversial 'No Outsiders' programme, further explains homosexuality:
"'Gay' is when a man loves a man. 'Lesbian' is when two women love each other. 'Bi-sexual' is when a person can love both men and women." [emphasis added]
The message is clear: LGBT is all about love. The problem is that children's understanding of love is formed by those around them – namely, family and friends. Primary aged children will understand very little about romantic, sexual love (eros) until puberty. Given that most children will admit to loving their best friend, usually of the same sex, many children are led to believe or question whether they, too, are lesbian, gay or bisexual.
2. "It teaches children not to be homophobic"
Here's the argument:
"Teaching LGBT themes promotes inclusivity."
"It's all about teaching children to accept differences."
"When children accept and embrace differences, it lessens bullying – especially homophobic bullying."
The mantra goes that "homophobic bullying is the most common form of bullying." And when children finally accept difference, they are less likely to bully based on someone's sexuality.
In truth, there is no evidence to suggest this. In fact, even Stonewall has been clear that homophobic bullying has been decreasing across schools in Britain since 2012. And despite a large focus from schools and the media on homophobic bullying, the Ditch the Label's 2018 Annual Bullying Survey paints a different picture of bullying in the UK.
The highest proportion of school and university age children and teenagers (57%) say they are bullied due to attitudes towards their appearance; 40% say it is due to attitudes towards their interests or hobbies; 24% say it is because of attitudes towards the clothes they wear. In fact, despite 20% saying they have been accused of being gay or lesbian when they aren't, only 9% say they are bullied because of their sexuality.
But perhaps homophobic bullying is just a guise. One of the other buzzwords flying around the sex education debate has been 'acceptance'. Author and LGBT campaigner Olly Pike summed this up perfectly on BBC London News, debating parent Izzy Montague. Speaking of the LGBT community, he said: "we don't want to be tolerated; we want to be accepted."
This hits the nail on the head. It's one thing to accept that differences exist and that some people identify as LGBT, but it's quite another to accept that LGBT is normal and right, something to be embraced and celebrated. While we are called to love our neighbour – and even to love our enemies (the greatest challenge) – being loving does not mean affirming what we know is not right and is ultimately harmful and destructive.
Not affirming or embracing LGBT should not been seen as 'homophobic'. Despite the term being misleading, the fact that at least three of the world's main religions teach that homosexuality is sinful shows that this view is largely accepted the world over. Furthermore, as it is a religious belief of many, it is actually protected in law under the protected characteristic of 'religion or belief'.
Children should not be encouraged to embrace LGBT 'beliefs' (because we can define LGBT as an ideology) at the expense of other religious beliefs. In fact, in 'accepting' and 'embracing' LGBT lifestyles and practices, whole groups of others are marginalised, picked on, called names and ostracised. This is the very opposite of 'inclusivity' and promotes a different form of bullying.
3. "It is age-appropriate"
Supporters of the new sex education argue that the new teaching does not harm anyone. Besides, the guidance itself stipulates that:
"Schools should ensure that all of their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content. At the point at which schools consider it appropriate to teach their pupils about LGBT, they should ensure that this content is fully integrated into their programmes of study for this area of the curriculum rather than delivered as a standalone unit or lesson. Schools are free to determine how they do this, and we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area of the curriculum."
As teachers are at liberty to decide when to teach this material to children, the argument goes, children are therefore in safe hands and will only be taught what is right for them to learn.
However, a look at the material being used tells a different story.
One of the books at the forefront of the debate, And Tango Makes Three (arguably one of the more 'tame' books used to teach LGBT relationships), tells the story of two 'gay penguins' who 'adopt' an egg and raise a baby penguin together. Not only does this book conflate the idea of a close same sex friendship with a gay relationship (as previously discussed), it also encourages same-sex parenting.
The effects of teaching this book to primary aged children are clear: it only causes confusion. Kaysey, a 10-year-old pupil from Heavers Farm School in Essex, described what her class thought of the book. She described how a few pupils objected to the accompanying video of the storybook, putting their hands up and saying, "that's wrong." When asked about what exactly the class objected to, Kaysey explained: "we were thinking, why would you take another person's baby to give it to another person that does not have anything to do with that child?"
Similarly, books such as 10,000 Dresses (which tells the story of a boy who believes he is a girl and dreams up various different dresses to wear), Julian is a Mermaid (which tells a similar story of a boy wanting to be a mermaid, dressing up as a girl and being taken to a Pride parade), and Red: A Crayon's Story (which tells the story of a 'red' crayon who is actually blue), all encourage children to question who they are, experiment with 'different genders' and sexualities, and even to defy their parents. The overriding message in these stories is that you know yourself best, and therefore you get to decide who you want to be, no matter what anyone else might tell you.
But how many five-year-olds really know themselves better than their parents know them? Primary aged children are still just learning about friendship and are far too young to engage with homosexuality and transgenderism.
Make no mistake – the books used to teach on LGBT themes are not just innocent storybooks that do no harm; the potential they hold to harm children is catastrophic: children are led to doubt their gender based on 'feelings', interpret puberty issues as transgender issues which, if acted upon, could lead to children and teenagers taking the route to gender reassignment and ultimately destroying their fertility. Young children are not ready to deal with these kinds of issues aren't yet trained enough at decision making to determine this.
Despite this teaching that is present in many schools, if schools really do follow the guidance, it is possible to teach sex education well, in an age appropriate setting and with regard for pupils' religious background. Even if schools follow the new guidance, it is possible for them simply to teach the existence of LGBT relationships without any promotion of LGBT ideology.
4. "You can still opt your child out"
Here's the argument:
"If you really don't agree, just withdraw your child from sex education."
Currently, LGBT themes should be limited to Sex Education and/or Personal, Sexual and Health Education (PSHE). As the law presently stands, parents do have the right to withdraw their children – both in primary and secondary school – from these lessons, should they choose to do so. Although this is often made practically impossible for parents for fear that their child will be bullied simply for not being present in these lessons.
From 2020, the rights of parental withdrawal become more complicated. In primary schools, parents will still be able to withdraw their children from Sex Education, but not from Relationships Education or Health Education. LGBT themes will be woven into Relationships Education, which is a compulsory subject.
In secondary schools, RSE will also be broken down in relationships education and sex education. Parents still won't be able to opt their children out of relationships education, but they can opt their children out of sex education, on the condition that the child's headteacher agrees to this. The child in question will also have the right to opt him or herself back in from three school terms before their sixteenth birthday.
The real issue, however, is that LGBT themes are not being limited to sex education, where parents have the right to opt their children out. LGBT ideology continues throughout the day. This is problematic, as the guidance itself limits LGBT teaching to one "area of the curriculum" (as seen above), not various or several subject areas.
At Heavers Farm, Kaysey has described a typical day: she explains how the class usually begins with guided reading, where the class may end up reading about children with same-sex parents, or a child struggling with gender dysphoria. After guided reading, they might have LGBT Maths, where the class would have to solve problems such as, "Anastasia and her girlfriend have [x] sweets to share with [x] people...". Then they would move on to LGBT English, where the pupils would have to write a letter encouraging someone who was scared to 'come out' as gay or lesbian. Kaysey also revealed that LGBT themes have entered Art classes: "Even on Fridays in Art, we get told to either draw stuff that's got to do with LGBT, do flags, or create little crafts."
But nor is LGBT ideology limited to lessons. Stonewall posters and rainbow flags are pinned to the corridors, and a school-wide Pride parade is held in June for children as young as four and five to participate in.
It is impossible to escape LGBT ideology.
5. "It's the law"
The argument from campaigners sounds something like this:
"Government policy/guidance/the law states that you have to teach children about LGBT issues/equalities/British values."
Each school is allowed to create its own curriculum based on education guidance produced by the government Department for Education. Currently, there is no law that states that schools must teach LGBT themes. Only from 2020 will same-sex marriage be required to be taught, as the new Relationships and Sex Education Guidance requires teaching on 'different kinds' of marriages. Nothing else regarding LGBT ideology is strictly laid out in the guidelines; anything else is optional, meaning that schools are not required to teach anything further on the topic.
The government has also made clear that any teaching on LGBT themes must also "[respect] the backgrounds and beliefs of pupils." Arguably, if this were being done, we wouldn't have seen so many protests around the country – the teaching of 'No Outsiders' at Parkfield and Anderton Park Primary Schools in Birmingham, was deemed appropriate by Ofsted, who seemed to show no regard for the Muslim background of the majority of pupils. But at least in principle, the guidance does state that teachers must bear in mind pupils' religious background.
Schools are required to teach the Equalities Act 2010, with all of its protected characteristics, which include race and religion, sexual orientation and gender reassignment (note: not gender identity). Schools' responsibility regarding the Equalities Act is to ensure that governors have "due regard" for eliminating discrimination; promoting good relationships between the protected characteristics; and creating opportunities for those with protected characteristics. In short, it means that schools should be promoting mutual respect – not promoting LGBT.
In terms of British values, these have nothing to do with the protected characteristics, and are part of the government's Prevent strategy to try and tackle extremism. According to Ofsted, the four fundamental British values are: democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty; and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faith and beliefs and those without faith. In this sense, schools should really be promoting respect for those who disagree with the teaching of LGBT themes in schools.
What can I do about it?
Given the misinformation and lies spreading about the teaching of LGBT themes in schools, parents must make their voice heard and stand up for their rights as the primary caregivers and educators of their children. But what can you do?
1. Write to your MP
If you're unhappy with the way that children are being forced to swallow LGBT ideology, write to your Member of Parliament to voice your concern. You can refer to some of the arguments above. If enough parents get in touch with their MPs, it could lead to further debates in Parliament and questions being asked.
Why not ask MPs what they intend to do about schools who spread LGBT ideology across the curriculum? You could also ask what they intend to do about ensuring that any teaching on LGBT themes respects the religious background of pupils. How does Ofsted intend to act upon that, given their approval of No Outsiders at schools in Birmingham where the largest proportion of pupils are Muslim?
Find out how to get in touch with your MP on Parliament.uk
2. Organise a meeting for parents
If you are unhappy with what your child is being taught at their school, the chances are that you aren't alone. Why not organise a meeting for parents to discuss what children are being taught in sex education and/or throughout the curriculum to gauge how other parents feel and organise further action? It's helpful to know what other parents are thinking and meet up to discuss what you can do about it. It is also helpful in terms of being able to share with other parents what your children are being taught, keeping other parents informed who may not already know, and giving the opportunity for questions to be raised. The more voices that speak out, the harder it is to drown them out.
3. Write to your headteacher
One way of taking further action with a group of parents – or on your own – is through writing to your headteacher. Voice your concern with them if you aren't happy with what your child is being taught. It is their responsibility to oversee the education that your child is receiving, and if you don't approve of it, they need to know. Starting a dialogue with your child's headteacher will give the opportunity for your questions to be answered, but also ensures that the headteacher knows that you care about what your child is being taught. If headteachers are aware that you are meeting with other parents and that you are taking an active interest in your child's education, it will make them more careful about how they approach these themes.
We are always interested to hear examples of what is being taught – both positive and negative.
4. Withdraw your child from sex education
As previously mentioned, parents will retain the right to opt their children out of Sex Education in primary schools, and sex education in secondary schools if the headteacher agrees. Make use of your right of withdrawal if you don't like what your child is being taught in Sex Education or RSE.
5. Change schools/home educate/start your own school!
If you really don't approve of what your child is being taught in school, you can change their school or withdraw them from school and start home educating them. Despite this seeming like a more drastic option, more parents are choosing to put their children in Christian education or give them a Christian education at home. If you are interested in finding out more about Christian education, you can listen to this podcast with Joe Boot.
There are also various programmes you can follow to home educate your children, and guidance from the government for parents wishing to take this up.
But if you're feeling even more ambitious, why don't you start your own Christian school?!
Rebekah Moffett is Communications Officer at Christian Concern. This article was originally published at Christian Concern and is re-printed here with permission.