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Conservatives vote against compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex education class

UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Conservative MPs have blocked plans to include compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex education and relationships in schools.

Education Security Justine Greening has repeatedly expressed that she is open to reforming the SRE, which allows free schools and academies to decide whether they want to teach the subject or not.

An all-female group of MPs led by Labour’s Stella Creasy attempted to secure this issue’s reform this week using the Children and Social Work Bill to make lessons in schools on “sex and relationships education, same-sex relationships, sexual consent, sexual violence, and domestic violence” mandatory.

Education watchdog Ofsted would have to inspect the SRE considering, “whether the information provided to pupils is accurate and balanced, age-appropriate, inclusive, or religiously diverse”.

The amendment was denied by the government in a public bill committee where Tories out-ruled the vote with 10 of 15 votes.

The vote was broken down to 10-5 where only five Labour MPs supported the SRE amendment and 10 Conservative MPs voted against the amendment.

Simon Hoare, Conservative MP for North Dorset, said the amendment would conflict with schools of faith that oppose homosexuality.

Rennett Stowe via Flickr

He said: “Some form of protection is needed for those who run faith schools, all faiths, to make the position absolutely clear. I have little or no doubt that I will receive emails from constituents who happen to read my remarks. They will say that this is all about promotion, and this or that religion thinks that homosexuality—or another element—is not right.

 “To provide a legislative comfort blanket, for want of a better phrase, the new clause needs to include a clear statement that we are talking not about promotion, but about education, and where sex education is delivered in a faith school environment, those providing the education should not feel inhibited about answering questions such as ‘What is the thinking of our faith on this particular aspect of sexuality?'”

Junior Education Minister Edward Timpson agreed with Hoare saying: “We must attempt to allow everybody with a view a chance to make their case. It is a sensitive issue, as everyone is aware, but we want to ensure that we bring as many people with us as possible.”

Mr. Timpson, before voting to block the amendment, eluded that the government with consider its own plans on sex and relationship education claiming “there are lots of repercussions that need to be thought through.”

“We are actively looking at how best to address both the quality of delivery and accessibility to ensure that all children can be supported to develop positive, healthy relationships and to thrive in modern Britain today,” he said. “We welcome the support in delivering this in a timely and considered manner.

“We are unanimous that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools in any form is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. We are much more alive to that and need to make sure that that is properly reflected in the way that we equip children in future.”

Ms. Creasy pointed to statistics proving that 40% of schools are failing in proving suitable SRE.

She said: “At the moment, sex education is mandatory in terms of the biology of sex. In the biology curriculum, we teach young people about reproduction, but we do not teach them about relationships.

“At the moment, we only have sex and relationship education across our schools in a very patchy way. Some schools are doing amazing work, and we should recognise that, but safeguarding only works if every young child has access to information, training and support.

“That means millions of children in our schools right now are simply not getting the right sort of information about relationships, consent and sensitive issues such as their relationships with the other sex and with the same sex, domestic violence and abuse, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.”

HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust said: “Another missed opportunity by the government to make SRE statutory in schools as Stella Creasy’s amendment is defeated. This is shameful.”

The MPs Maria Caulfield, Suella Fernandes, Simon Hoare, Seema Kennedy, Huw Merriman, Amanda Milling, Robert Syms, Edward Timpson, Michael Tomlinson, and Helen Whately voted against the SRE.

Words Ashley Vega

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