Andrew Moffat, assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham created the ‘No Outsiders Project’ for schools. The project was intended to focus on teaching children to "be proud of who they are while recognising and celebrating difference and diversity". In doing so, Mr Moffat used books to highlight these topics, including a dog who doesn’t feel as though he fits in and a boy who dresses up as a mermaid. The project was successful and soon spread to other schools across the country. However, in January 2019, parents began to protest against these lessons outside one school in Birmingham due to their discomfort with the content and how it conflicted with their values and religion.
Incidents like this highlight the tension caused when the heteronormative education system is challenged, however from September 2020 it will be compulsory for all UK schools to offer Relationships education (for primary schools) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE - for secondary schools) and health education. This means that LGBTQ inclusive lessons will finally be on the national curriculum.
As a result of the UK government’s draft statutory guidance, schools will be required to teach pupils about sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to this, schools will be required to teach their students about different families, which can include LGBTQ families. This monumental development will allow young people to learn about the diversity of family relationships and sexual identity and orientation so that these discussions and topics become normalised for the younger generation. In doing so, these changes will hopefully help tackle anti-LGBTQ bullying and discrimination which remains an issue in schools across the UK. Whilst the protests in Birmingham highlight the opposition to LGBTQ inclusive lessons, this reform could not have come at a more vital time.
In a recent study, BBC Three and the BBC's data team analysed four years of data on homophobic and transgender hate crimes provided by 38 police forces in the UK. Based on their findings, 20-29 year olds are the age group that are most likely to report that they have been victims of homophobic or transgender hate crimes. The data also highlighted how 70 children aged under-13, with some reports of those younger than 7, have reported homophobic or transgender hate crimes to the police since 2014. Based on this study alone, the figures point to the high number of children and teenagers that are both victims and perpetrators of LGBTQ hate crimes and discrimination. As such, these statistics only emphasise the issues with regards to the youth in the UK and their understanding and perception of LGBTQ issues, gender identity and expressions.
Only by educating children about the diversity of relationships and gender identities can values of tolerance and respect for all be taught. If children are denied lessons then we can only expect statistics like the ones mentioned previously to become the norm.
About the author
Royce Clemente is an Global Immigration Coordinator in Kingsley Napley’s Immigration . He is an active member of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion and LGBTQ & Allies networks.