Opinion: Proud tradition of cherishing diversity
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
When children go to school, they don’t just learn facts and skills.
They also pick up values which will shape how they treat other people for the rest of their lives. That makes it essential that when schools teach their pupils about relationships, they do so in a way that acknowledges that gay and trans people exist and have relationships that are every bit as real as those of straight couples.
This is crucial for children who are realising that they are LGBT+ themselves. They should be given the knowledge to understand that how they feel is natural, that there is nothing wrong with them and that there are millions of other people like them.
We can also hope that the same knowledge will reduce the stigma they face, and which leads to an estimated 45 per cent of LGBT+ pupils reporting being bullied at school due to their sexuality.
Therefore, I am pleased that new guidance from the Department of Education means that from September next year age appropriate relationship education will be compulsory in all schools and must be LGBT+ inclusive.
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As welcome as this news is, it has already led to a backlash. Some MPs have said that primary school children learning about LGBT+ relationships is inappropriate, even though plenty of those pupils will have two mummies or two daddies themselves. This attempted erasure of those that are LGBT+ from our society is completely unacceptable.
Worse still, schools in Birmingham that piloted an LGBT+ inclusive curriculum were targeted by protests that were so aggressive that children had to be sent home and teachers needed counselling. I hope that no schools in Haringey will ever face anything similar. However, they deserve to know that if they do their local authority will stand beside them.
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As Liberal Democrats we will always fight for equality, which is why we will be submitting a motion supporting LGBT+ inclusive education to the next full council meeting on July 15. It will call on the cabinet member for Children, Education and Families to write to every Haringey school offering the council's support in delivering the new, more inclusive curriculum.
We will also be asking the council to make clear in advance that it will use Public Space Protection Orders to move any protests that result in harassment or the disruption of children's education away from schools.
Taking this stand would be in keeping with Haringey's proud tradition of cherishing diversity. We have the eighth largest LGBT+ community in the country.
Our local MPs were some of the first to speak out against the noxious Section 28 that institutionalised homophobia in schools throughout the 1980s and '90s. Then in 2014, Lynne Featherstone, the former MP for Hornsey and Wood Green was the equalities minister who guided the Equal Marriage bill through Parliament and had it enshrined into law.
On July 15, I hope all Haringey's councillors will support these values.
We should all be aiming for a society where children grow up understanding and accepting diversity.