On the 28th January this year the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords combined together to vote down a Labour amendment to the Children and Families Bill which would have made sex education mandatory in all state funded Primary and Secondary Schools. This — unlike the PHSE (Personal, Social, and Health Education) — have included a compulsory element of lessons on same sex relationships and hopefully thereby have helped tackle homophobic bullying as well as health problems among LGBT youngsters. Just days after Nick Clegg called for better cooperation between the parties, to tackle the spread of HIV his members in the Lords voted to perpetuate the ignorance that has and is playing such a large part in its spread. This followed on the defeat of a similar amendment to the same Bill in the Commons earlier in the year.
Also, in March 2013, the Commons defeated an attempt to make Personal Health and Economic Education a statutory requirement in schools. It remains the case that even in those schools under the direct control of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, it would be left to individual schools whether they adopted PHSE and whether such programmes included programmes designed to suit the needs of LGBT students.
At this time Yvette Cooper warned in Pink News that the failure to adopt such a programme would mean that nothing would be done to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. Youngsters were to be left in ignorance and fear with catastrophic effects on their well-being. In the 2013 Labour Party Conference in Brighton, she rightly implored to the Tory Education Secretary:
“Michael, this is the 21st Century – not the 19th. That is why a Labour government will make sure there is updated sex and relationship education for boys and girls, with zero tolerance of violence at its core. And we will make it compulsory too.”
Earlier this year at Hull Pride, the Hull and East Yorkshire Labour LGBT+ Network gathered over 700 signatures on the following petition:
“Recent research has shown that endemic homophobic research in schools has been worsening. This has resulted in high levels of poor mental and sexual health among young LGBT people. We believe that the Government and School Governors and College managers should ensure that effective LGBT education is made an integral part of the PSHE Programme and that this programme be made a part of the curriculum in ALL schools and colleges.”
We believe that this is more relevant and urgent than ever. However it is pointless to send such a petition or an e petition to Michael Gove. We would have more chance of persuading him to make the showing of Blackadder Videos a compulsory part of the teaching of WWI in school History lessons.
What we must do is to ensure that this goes into the Labour Party Manifesto as a firm commitment for the next election And it must apply to ALL schools without exception including Private and Faith Schools. The first Aids awareness Programme was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. Its slogan was “Dont die of Ignorance.” She then counteracted this by introducing the notorious section 28 — which — shades of Putin — banned the ‘promotion ‘of homosexuality. Now we have section 28 back by the back door and as a result despite the excellent work being done by groups such as Stonewall – who revealed the full extent of the problem in their School Report, and which they have tried to counter through such initiatives as the School Champions Programme. But sadly only one out of three councils – despite the implications of the Equalities Act – are signed up.
The sad truth is that 30 years after the first campaign the government is ensuring not only that youngsters continue to die of ignorance, but also suffer from homophobic bullying and mental health problems.
The continuation of fear and ignorance cannot be justified. The cost in human suffering is too high. We must do what we can to campaign against it and stop it.
Come on Ed Miliband—-make a public commitment. Now.
By Colin Livett
Update: Two Cheers For Ed!
On 20th March, in an interview with Pink News, Ed Miliband confirmed that a Labour Government would make Sex and Relationship Education a statutory requirement for schools. Labour had already made it clear that this should be LGBt inclusive and friendly. He said ‘making sex education in schools compulsory is the right thing to do, it’s the right thing for our young people,it’s the right thing for our country,and we should have the courage of our convictions.’
Indeed we should Mr. Miliband and we hope to hear the Shadow Education Secretary—-who so far seems to have made a vow of silence on the subject—making a load and clear declaration of support on your stand.
We ask you to:
1. Make this a crystal clear Labour Manifesto Pledge—-there is nothing in the Draft Manifesto and the broader PSHE Programme is not mentioned either. Labour has made attempts to pass this into Law since 2010 and been thwarted by the Tories and Liberal Democrats. Please do not run scared from the sound of gunfire from the unelected House of Lords,the doomed Liberal Democrats who we suspect really agree with Labour on this or the prospect of unfriendly headlines in the Daily Mail—-of which you have already had experience and emerged the stronger.Please,as you say ,have the courage of your convictions.
2. Pledge that this will be for ALL schools publicly funded[of whatever variety ] or not. Children cannot be left in ignorance simply because of the type of school they happen to attend. Very few of them made their choice of school after all and yet it is them who will suffer from exclusion.
Then you will get the third cheer Ed!
Colin Livett. Speaking at an event hosted by national LGBT Labour in Birmingham on 11th. April 2014, Labours Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt,said the following, "We have manifesto commitment to compulsory sex and relationships education and updating the out of date guidance on it' This is welcome in as far as for the first time there is mention of a manifesto commitment.However there are some important gaps 1. There is no commitment that this will be in ALL schools 2 There is no mention at all of a PSHE Programme----just a stand alone sex and relationships one.This is a backward step We need a comprehensive PSHE programme which would include an LGBT friendly Sex and Relationships programme and this should be at ALL schools.The issue here is not with compulsion as such but in ensuring that NO child should be left in ignorance.Consquently we will continue to campaign for a comprehensive PSHE Programme at ALL schools . Colin Livett 17th April 2014 Writing in the latest edition of Progress Magazine,Gloria de Piero, Labour's Shadow Women's and Equalities Minister declared that SRE should be in 'all' schools. This is welcome but ambiguous. Presumably it includes all publicly funded schools including Academies and Faith Schools but nothing is said of privatly funded schools. So we have a situation in which Ed Miliband has promised compulsory SRE, Tristram Hunt has said that this will be an updated curriculum and is a manifesto commitment and Gloria has said it will be 'all' schools. This is welcome but it is NOT enough. It must be part of a broader PSHE Curriculum,it must be in all schools and must be a firm manifesto commitment. The danger of its not being part of a compulsory national curriculum in all schools were underlined at the National Union of Teachers Annual Conference on 22nd April where delegates claimed that, in effect , the notorious anti-gay Section 28 introduced by the Thatcher Government was still,in effect in operation because some subjects were not talked about and there was no effective anti-bullying strategy.. It was claimed that some academies and Faith Schools were still following a curriculum clothed in the homophobic language of Section 28---and teaching nothing beyond which compelled by the law.As Wes Streeting ,Head of Education at Stonewall told Gay Star News ,'Head Teachers and governors who are only prepared to even acknowledge the existence of LGBT pupils in the context of stopping them from catching HIV and AIDS are simply not up to the job of educating and safeguarding the children in their care." We agree wholeheartedly---Labour must commit itself to a programme that ensures that NO CHILD IS ALLOWED TO BE LEFT IN FEAR AND IGNORANCE. Colin Livett 24th April 2014