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Faith schools prevent teachers discussing LGBT issues, survey finds

Faith schools frequently erect a barrier to teaching LGBT curriculum content from a neutral and inclusive perspective, according to a survey of UK teachers carried out by Teacher Tapp for the LGBT+ young people’s charity Just Like Us. They found that in faith schools, 46% of teachers think that faith is a barrier to tackling LGBT topics, versus 25% at other schools. Humanists UK, which campaigns for the removal of all religious discrimination in the school system, said the findings demonstrate how faith schools can harm LGBT pupils.

The news is further proof that religious bias in and around schools can prevent children from being taught about the realities of living in a diverse and inclusive society. For example in 2021 a faith school in Hereford’s relationships and sex education (RSE) curriculum resources were criticised for promoting gender stereotypes. Meanwhile in Northern Ireland RSE lessons in one school were stopped altogether due to religious influence from the church-appointed governing body, and only restarted once the governors resigned. Such stories demonstrate that the governments of the UK need to take action to embed critical and objective teaching into the curriculum, free of religious influence. Wales took this step recently, with RSE now compulsory for all and taught objectively, and faith schools are no longer permitted to teach the subject differently to other schools.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said:

‘This survey shows why work is needed to make sure faith schools are no longer permitted to deny children access to a broad, balanced, and inclusive curriculum. State-funded, religiously segregated schools across the UK are allowed to hire and fire teachers along religious lines, and clearly many teachers in those schools are struggling to discuss facts and realities about relationships.

‘Education should be about the needs of children, and preparing them to be healthy, happy, and safe, and to get along with others in a diverse society. All the best evidence shows that that means high quality, comprehensive, and age-appropriate RSE.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on state funded faith schools.

Read about the survey on the Just Like Us website.

Read our article about gender stereotypes in a faith school’s RSE curriculum.

Read our article about church appointed governors stopping RSE lessons.

Read our article about Wales’ inclusive reforms to RSE being upheld in the High Court.

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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