Education Secretary buckles on compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex ed amid pressure from faith groups

Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at Downing Street on February 26, 2019 in London, England.

The new Education Secretary is gutting plans for compulsory sex and relationship education in all schools, amid pressure from faith groups.

Damian Hinds became Secretary of State for Education last month, taking the post from out minister Justine Greening – who had launched a review of government guidance on sex and relationship education (SRE).

Ms Greening had backed plans for compulsory, LGBT-inclusive SRE to be taught all schools – but pressed on the issue over the weekend, Mr Hinds said he would champion the right of parents to withdraw their kids from lessons they object to.

Speaking to the Times, Hinds said he would maintain the current rule that parents can withdraw their children from SRE classes.

He told the BBC: “There’s already an established right to take your children out of sex education lessons.

“What we’re doing is bringing in relationships education in primary school and relationship and sex education in secondary schools.

“Those lessons will be in all schools… it will be compulsory to have them in all schools, but as I say there’s an established right which will continue for parents to be able to withdraw their children from the sex education bits of relationships and sex education.

“That right exists and will continue.”

It comes after faith groups urged him to adopt new rules that block kids from learning about LGBT issues without permission from their parents, and that permit schools to teach being gay is sinful and damaging.

In their submission to the government consultation, lobbying group Christian Concern said: “The concern is that this subject is being used to bring in indoctrination about homosexuality and transgenderism… lifestyles viewed as immoral by the world’s major religions ought not to be promoted as they are likely to conflict with the views of many parents.”

It added: The government intends to use this compulsory subject to introduce children at a very early age to diverse relationships. Same-sex relationships will be promoted as just as valid as heterosexual relationships. The concept of someone being transgender will also be introduced, with children being told that gender is different to biological sex and being encouraged to question their gender.

“Christian Concern’s view is that it is harmful for children to be introduced to these ideas at a very early age. It only leads to confusion about gender identity and the difference between the sexes. A child’s sexual innocence may be disturbed and talk of sexual abuse can lead to children worrying about becoming a victim.”

The group added: “Faith schools should be allowed to teach God’s design for humanity – that we are created male and female, and that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman.”

The National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools also spoke out – in a submission that refused to include the word “sex”.

The group wrote: “There is no ‘age-appropriate’ way to teach primary or secondary school children about same-s marriage or transgenderism.

“We should be teaching young children broad values of respect and tolerance, not ordering them to accept adult s relationships which they are far too young to understand.

“Nor should schools be encouraging young children to question their biological gender.”

The Family Education Trust added: “In making RSE accessible to pupils who identify as LGBT, the health risks associated with such lifestyles should be explored.

“History demonstrates the importance of marriage, defined as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, for the nurture of children, and the richness of care provided by the complementarity of care provided by a father and mother.

“Schools should not be required to teach that gender is fluid or that same-sex marriage is morally equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman.”

Campaigners have urged the government to stick by plans for LGBT-inclusive SRE.

Jay Harman  of Humanists UK said: “It is time for the Government to make a decision.

“Will it continue to allow state-funded schools to teach that homosexuality is a sin and to condemn, stigmatise, or just entirely ignore the existence of LGBT people? Or will it move to end the state’s endorsement of such teaching and prohibit it as an anachronistic, discriminatory, and unconscionable affront to the equality and dignity of all people?

“‘It was not long ago that similar decisions had to be made by governments both in the UK and the United States in the face of segregationists and opponents of interracial marriage.

“History has taken a dim view of those who sought to hold back the tide of racial equality then, and it will no doubt take a dim view of those who oppose LGBT equality now.”

The issue has now been stalled for several years.

Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had backed reforms in 2016 – but progress was delayed by the Brexit vote and change of Prime Minister.