Investigations into schools with section 28-style policies

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The UK and Welsh Governments have both announced they are to investigate schools which continue to have section 28-like statements in their Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) policy.

The news comes after the British Humanist Association (BHA) identified 46 such schools recreating the law which stated that local authorities ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’, or otherwise believing the law to still be in force – despite its repeal in 2003.

The BHA has welcomed the investigation, although expressed concern that the UK Government’s response doesn’t go far enough.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education is reported as saying: ‘What these schools have done by singling out homosexuality is unacceptable. All schools can draw up their own sex education policy but they must ensure they do not discriminate unfairly on grounds of sexual orientation. Our sex and relationship education guidance makes it clear that schools should not promote any sexual orientation. The DfE will be looking into these schools.’

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal said: "These schools’ policies must urgently be updated and the schools must take steps to ensure that no pupil is discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"However, we think a lot of the fault of this lies with the Government’s own sex and relationship education guidance. The guidance, which dates from 2000 – before the repeal of section 28 – says that 'There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation' and 'It is inappropriate for youth workers, as with any professional, to promote sexual orientation.'

"While it is correct that schools should not encourage pupils to adopt a particular sexual orientation against their wishes, no school would ever think to force a pupil to be gay or lesbian. Instead all this guidance achieves, in having unnecessary text that is much too close to the original section 28, is encourage schools to adopt policies that are open to interpretation by teachers, pupils and parents in a manner could be homophobic. The guidance urgently needs to be reviewed and the offending phrases removed."

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