Tory Commons Education Committee Chair calls for updated guidance on Section 28

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The Chairman of the Commons Education Committee has called for updated guidelines following revelations scores of schools have polices in place targeting the “promotion” of homosexuality.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart said: “It looks like an echo from the past. It looks as if schools have just copied that wording from years ago, before Section 28 was revoked, rather than with any deliberate intent.”

Officials at the Department for Education (DfE) are investigating claims made by the British Humanist Association (BHA) that at least 45 schools across the country either replicate language banning the “promotion” of homosexuality in the classroom or are “unhelpfully vague on the issue.”

Yesterday, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to act.

Mr Twigg said: “Labour got rid of Section 28 in 2003 to ensure that schools taught about homosexuality in an open and honest way. Homophobic bullying is still too common in schools, we must ensure that we redouble our efforts to tackle such prejudice.”

Introduced in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities and said that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales in 2003 and in Scotland in 2000.

King James’ state school in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, stipulates in its Sexual and Relationships Education (SRE) policy of the need to “ensure that homosexuality is not promoted as a pretended family relationship whilst not encouraging homophobia.”

Other schools use similar language, including Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. In its guidelines it says staff “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material which actively promotes homosexuality.”

Wes Streeting, head of education at Stonewall, said: “Given the deeply damaging effect that Section 28 had on the education and well-being of so many young people, it is alarming that some schools continue to have it enshrined in their policies.”

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams added: “We need to get a grip on this to ensure schools aren’t breaching the guidelines that are in place to combat homophobic bullying.”