A 'Stop confusing our children' sign on the iron railings outside the school
Image caption Parents protested about equalities education at some Birmingham primary schools

Teachers are calling for same-sex relationships education to be made compulsory in UK primary schools.

The demand, at the National Education Union conference in Liverpool, comes after protests at several primaries in Birmingham over an equality programme.

The protesters said the programme, No Outsiders, clashed with their religious beliefs.

Delegate Deborah Gwynn said primary school pupils would have family members who were members of same-sex couples.

“We want them to feel included,” she said.

The motion claimed parental opposition in Birmingham and elsewhere was being organised by a range of homophobic groups.

‘Empowered’

It called for the union to lobby the government and opposition parties to strengthen Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) guidance so that teaching about Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships becomes statutory in both primary and secondary schools.

She added that every child should be “empowered to be the people that they want to be”.

Tanveer Hammeed, a delegate from Leeds, said: “RSE education needs to be for all, it needs to be inclusive, it needs to go through primary to secondary schools – no ifs, no buts.”

Speakers also claimed there had been a conflation of issues of RSE and Islamaphobia, because of the predominance of Muslim parents protesting around the Birmingham schools, and that this was being stirred up by the Far Right.

Image caption Supporters say No Outsiders, the programme at the centre of the Birmingham protests, simply teaches children “about different families”

Teachers also expressed concerns about a return to the days when councils, and therefore schools, were banned from promoting homosexuality in any mainstream school.

But they acknowledged that schools need to have a clear “dialogue” with parents about the necessity of inclusive education.

‘Healthy family life’

From 2020, relationship, sex and heath education will be compulsory in all schools in England, while relationship and health education must be taught in primaries.

But the guidance leaves head teachers to decide exactly what to teach and when. They also have to take into account the religious background of all pupils when planning it.

In primaries, pupils will learn about “healthy family life” and how other people’s families can look different from their own.

With regard to education on same sex relationship issues, the government has said all pupils have to learn about them “in a timely manner”, with the Department for Education recommending that it is “integral throughout programmes of study”.

‘Talking openly’

Policies on the issue differ in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said it was crucial that every young person felt happy and safe at school.

“Too many LGBT+ young people still don’t feel they can be themselves at school. This can hit their self-esteem and motivation.

“We can’t address LGBT+ teenagers’ self-harm and exclusion rates without talking openly and positively about LGBT+ people and their contributions to society now, and throughout history.”

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