Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Summer 1993

Patten Pans Gay Sex Education

The Department for Education has issued a new draft circular on sex education in schools which it proposes as a revision of the previous one issued in November 1987. The DfE says that the purpose of the draft is to emphasise the need for effective sex education “within a clear moral framework”. In a section on homosexuality, the draft reminds school staff and governors about Section 28 of the Local Government Act and states: “There is no place in any school in any circumstances for teaching which advocates homosexual behaviour, which presents it as the norm, or which encourages homosexual experimentation by pupils.” It also refers to the “deep offence” which might be caused to “members of various religious faiths” if the subject is not handled sensitively by teachers.

The DfE has invited comments on the draft which might be issued in final form before the start of the 1993-94 school year. Accordingly, GALHA has sent a letter strongly criticising the section on homosexuality and has urged members in its Postal Action Scheme, including celebrity supporter Claire Rayner, to protest. The British Humanist Association has also agreed to write.

In its letter, GALHA says that the clause implies that lesbians and gays are “inferior citizens whose lifestyle is abhorrent”, that it will make teachers excessively cautious about raising the subject of homosexuality thus depriving pupils of accurate and unbiased information, and that it could encourage some teachers who are already prejudiced “perhaps for religious reasons” to teach pupils that homosexuality is morally unacceptable. This would reinforce prejudice which already exists among many schoolchildren “largely as a result of the vicious rantings of the gutter press and religionists”.

The deplorable consequence, says GALHA, will be that lesbian and gay pupils will feel ashamed, unhappy and isolated, as well as more prone to suicide.

The GALHA letter also contrasts the DfE circular with that of the Department of Health which says that the needs of gay young men and women must be recognised and “approached sympathetically”.

Asking the DfE to rethink the homophobic section, Claire Rayner writes: “You seem to be deeply concerned about the offence caused to people who have religious beliefs about homosexuality, but have no concern for the deep offence that may be caused to those of us who do not share these views, and who feel that it is not morally acceptable to treat homosexuals as some sort of inferior beings who have deliberately chosen a way of life that flouts the traditions and beliefs of religious faiths.”

Copies of the GALHA letter have been sent to the Education Minister, John Patten, as well as the Labour and Liberal Democrat education spokespeople in the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Commenting on the circular in a press statement, GALHA secretary George Broadhead said: “It isn’t altogether surprising given the fact that we have a totally reactionary Education Minister who is a staunch Roman Catholic.

“Shortly after his appointment as Secretary of State for Education, John Patten publicly declared that Britain could not become civilised again without fear of damnation and the hope of redemption.

“He has since alienated parents’ representatives with his arrogant dismissal of their views as ‘Neanderthal’. Now he is alienating lesbians and gays with this clause. It is Mr Patten who belongs to prehistory.”

URI of this page :
Created : Sunday, 2003-03-09 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :