Guest post: LGBT-inclusive Relationships and Sex Education

The Key
The Key
With new regulations for schools on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) being introduced in September 2020, you might be wondering what LGBT-inclusive content looks like for your school.  Sidonie Bertrand Shelton, Head of Education Programmes at Stonewall tells us about the guidance, and introduces the Children and Young People's Conference taking place on 5th July, which will help to share best practice on the subject across the sector.

Let’s start with what lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people think about their RSE. In 2017, Stonewall and the University of Cambridge surveyed 3,700 LGBT young people aged 11-19 years, finding that:

  • Just one in five LGBT pupils (20 per cent) have learnt about where to go for help and advice about same-sex relationships at school
  • Three in four LGBT pupils (76 per cent) have never learnt about or discussed bisexuality at school
  • Three in four LGBT pupils (77 per cent) have never been taught about or discussed gender identity and what ‘trans’ means

Of course, behind each statistic in the School Report (2017) there are individual young people with their own stories:

“I truly believe that the lack of education on LGBT issues is not only wrong but also dangerous, as we have to turn to the Internet to educate ourselves on topics relevant to us. “

Sam, 15, sixth form college (North West)

“I feel like I’m being left out on something that is important, and my school isn’t equipping me with the right tools to understand my bisexuality.”

 Jessica, 13, single-sex secondary school (South East)

The Government’s new guidance for teaching RSE, passed by an overwhelming majority in the Commons at the end of March, recommends that schools’ RSE policies reference their Equality Act 2010 duties, under which schools have a duty not to discriminate against LGBT pupils and pupils with LGBT families. The guidance states ‘All primary schools will be required to teach about different families, which can include LGBT families. All secondary schools will teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.’

For example, it requires schools to recognise that intimate partner violence can also occur in same-sex relationships. We welcome this as the School Report (2017) found that only thirteen per cent of LGBT students have learnt about how to have healthy relationships in relation to same-sex relationships.

RSE should equip students with the building blocks for healthy relationships, such as what it looks like and how to nurture one, consent, boundaries and emotionally healthy communication. All this teaching should be LGBT inclusive, starting with teaching of LGBT families in primary schools as part of the diversity of all families.

Importantly, the guidance makes it clear that teaching on LGBT people, families and relationships should be fully integrated throughout RSE, rather than delivered as a separate, stand-alone lesson. For example, using case studies to exploring intimate partner violence and including same-sex relationships, and case studies that follow one person through a variety of relationships in a way that’s bi-inclusive.

Working with over 1,300 primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across the UK, we know that schools leading the way on LGBT inclusion are ensuring that their full curriculum – not just their RSE teaching – is fully LGBT-inclusive, reflecting the contributions and experiences of LGBT communities.

While the new RSE guidance will be introduced in September 2020, it’s important to start work sooner rather than later, and we’ll be supporting our network of schools share best practice across the sector, kick starting with our Children and Young People Conference. With a focus on mental health and wellbeing, creating inclusive RSE and embedding it into your schools’ broader curriculum, our event is on Friday 5th July in Central London. There will be a keynote from Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman on the new framework, workshops across settings and a youth voice stream for 100 young people aged 14-18. Book two adult places and you can bring up to three young people for free – check the website now for limited discounted tickets and special discounts for Stonewall School Champions. We hope to see you there!

For more information on the Children and Young People Conference, visit the website: www.stonewall.org.uk/events/children-and-young-people-conference-2019

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