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Muslim groups encourage schools to ignore Council guidance on LGBT-inclusive RSE

Muslim groups in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets are urging local schools to ignore guidance on relationships and sex education (RSE) issued by the local council because they claim its LGBT-inclusive provisions do not reflect their faith.

Humanists UK – which has campaigned for fully inclusive RSE for all children, regardless of background, for decades – has condemned the attempt to deprive pupils of this vital education, stressing the importance of comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive RSE to enable children to grow up healthy, happy, and safe.

The East London Mosque, the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques, and the Tower Hamlets Parents Association (THPA) have issued a statement highlighting several parts of RSE they say are problematic and attempting to rally parents to oppose them. These include ‘the teaching and promotion of LGBT in schools’ and ‘the naming of sexual/reproductive body parts to all children from KS1’ – which they describe as being taught ‘in the guise of safeguarding’.

The Council’s guidance is designed to support schools in developing their RSE curriculums and suggests ages at which different content should be taught. Among other things, it recommends that children should be taught the names of body parts, including reproductive organs, from Key Stage 1 (age 5-7) so that they ‘can report abuse if it happens’ and so ‘they can accurately report medical symptoms if they are unwell’. In order that ‘children coming from same-sex families feel welcomed and included in school,’ and to help tackle homophobic bullying, the guidance also recommends that children are taught about ‘LGBT relationships, in the context of different types of families… from the very start of their school career, in Key Stage 1’.

The statement from the Muslim groups argues that the Council’s advice ‘has no legal standing’ and schools are not required to follow or adopt it. It goes on to say that ‘all schools are required to write their own policy on their new RSE curriculum in accordance with the law and Department for Education guidance’ and states ‘there is no mandatory legal requirement to teach about LGBT at a primary school level’.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘This statement demonstrates exactly why the Government’s decision to grant faith-based carve-outs to the content of RSE is so much of a problem. The Government has repeatedly said that primary schools are “strongly encouraged and enabled” to teach LGBT content but, by failing to make this mandatory, they leave schools open to lobbying from parents who think that this amounts to a veto on what schools teach. That the parents in this case also object to children knowing the biological names of body parts – so that they have the correct words to articulate if they are being abused or are unwell – is particularly worrying.

‘While parents should absolutely be involved in the development of the new RSE curriculum at their children’s schools, these schools are still able to take advice from additional bodies, including the local authority. It is alarming that religious groups are attempting to use the duty to engage parents to intimidate schools into denying children their right to access the kind of inclusive lessons that all the best evidence shows will keep them healthy, happy, and, above all, safe.’

Notes:

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

Read our most recent article on the Catholic RSE resources saying ‘man was created to be the initiator in sexual relationships’.

Read our article on new Government RSE implementation guidance.

Read our piece on new Ofsted guidance that says schools must teach respect for LGBT people.

Read our piece on the introduction of relationships and sex education in England.

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 100,000 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.

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