Tuesday, 27 August 2013

BHA: The Legacy of Section 28

Last week we identified a total of 46 schools which, in their sex and relationships education policies, still either replicated the controversial section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 which forbade local authorities from promoting homosexuality in schools, or stated that the law (which was repealed in 2003) is still in force.

Section 28 stated that a local authority 'shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality' or 'promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship'. In practice, the effect of this meant that teachers were unable to prevent homophobic bullying, unable to answer questions from students and pupils regarding homosexuality, and it led to the closure of a number of lesbian, gay and bisexual student support groups in schools and colleges.

Since the revelation, which gained widespread media coverage including front page coverage in The Independent and our Schools Campaigner, Richy, discussing the issue on Sky News, the UK and Welsh Governments launched investigations, and a majority of the schools concerned have removed the relevant statements or have committed to reviewing their policies, which is to be commended. However a lot of the problems stem from the current Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, which dates from 2000 (prior to when Section 28 was repealed). The guidance says that there should be 'no direct promotion of sexual orientation', which we are concerned is unclear and could lead to misunderstandings in schools. This guidance urgently needs updating.

We would recommend that any school concerned about this issue would do well to look at the Sex Education Forum‘s resources and guidance, as well as the specific guidance from the PSHE Association, or they can get in touch with Stonewall, and take part in their training.