Faith schools must teach respect for LGBT people, says new Ofsted guidance

17 September, 2020

Faith schools that fail to teach respect for LGBT people risk being downgraded at inspection, Ofsted has said.

According to new guidance, schools which do not meet their duties to teach about the full range of protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act 2010 are likely to be graded ‘requires improvement’ as part of the inspection judgement that deals with personal development. Under the Act, there are nine protected characteristics, which include sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and religion or belief. However, some religious schools and parents have tried to claim that teaching about LGBT people goes against their faith.

Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for fully inclusive relationships and sex education (RSE) for all pupils irrespective of background, has welcomed the guidance, but expressed concern that it still permits religious schools to tell their pupils that same-sex relationships and gender reassignment are ‘not permitted by a particular religion’.

The Ofsted guidance goes on to say that schools that do not teach in an LGBT-inclusive way may also face a lower grade in the leadership and management section of their inspections if, after the beginning of the summer term next year, they have failed to adequately comply (or show how they will comply) with new Government guidance on RSE which came into force on 1 September. This explicitly requires secondary schools to include LGBT content. However, primary schools are only ‘encouraged’ to cover these issues, meaning that some younger pupils are likely to be denied proper access to this aspect of the curriculum.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘LGBT people come from all walks of life. Many are born and raised in religious communities and, as a result, attend faith schools. Therefore, it is vitally important for the wellbeing of these pupils that they and their peers receive a fully inclusive education that treats LGBT people equally.

‘It is good to know that Ofsted expects faith schools to ensure pupils learn that LGBT people are entitled to respect and equal treatment under the law. However, it is disappointing that the Government guidance on RSE still permits such schools to teach that same-sex relationships are prohibited according to their faith perspective, as well as to claim that learning about LGBT people is not “age-appropriate” for primary-aged pupils.

‘A school that acknowledges the legal rights of LGBT people still fails to afford them proper respect if it also denies their moral right to exist. For LGBT children and young people, the impact of being told their very existence is wrong could be devastating. This is not to mention the effect of such teaching on social cohesion more broadly. For this reason, we once again call on the Government to require all schools, regardless of faith affiliation, to provide LGBT-inclusive education that fosters tolerance and acceptance of all.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read the new Ofsted guidance.

Read our most recent article on the introduction of relationships and sex education in England.

Read our article on a proposed legal threat against compulsory RSE.

Read our article about the High Court ban on anti-RSE protesters at Anderton Park Primary School.

Read our article on how new relationships and sex education guidance is ‘another missed opportunity to fully back LGBT inclusive teaching’.

Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.