UK’s Section 28 Sex Education Haunts Schools Ten Years After Repeal

Section 28 of Britain’s Local Government Act of 1988 barred schools from teaching lessons that would make homosexuality seem “acceptable” and make families with two gay parents appear normal. The Act was introduced and passed by the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher and repealed 5 years later, with Conservative support, by the Labour government of Tony Blair.

Section 28 is not a particularly proud moment for the Conservatives, and shortly after taking over leadership of the Tories, David Cameron apologized for his party’s role in its passage. However, it appears that getting rid of Section 28 won’t be as easy as nullifying it at Westminster. Research from British Humanist Association – a group that fights against faith-based schools – shows that at least 44 schools around Britain have sex education policies that echo if not the language of Section 28, then at least its intent.

Among those listed are the Grace Academies, three schools in the West Midlands which describe themselves as having a Christian ethos. The group’s policy, published on its website, says: “Objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom, including discussion of homophobic behaviour.”

But it adds: “The Governing Body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality.”

The sex education guidelines at the Crest Academies run along the same line. Discussion of homosexuality is allowed, but its “promotion” is not.

However, the policies of other schools listed by the BHA are less clear. At least some school simply tell their teachers not to promote any sexual orientation, according to John Bingham of The Daily Telegraph.

Although a number of schools named in the report have already agreed both to withdraw the offending policies and reconsider them, a Department of Education spokesman nevertheless condemned them for “singling out” homosexuality for negative attention, calling that approach “unacceptable.”

“All schools can draw up their own sex education policy but they must ensure they do not discriminate unfairly on grounds of sexual orientation.

“Our sex and relationship education guidance makes it clear that schools should not promote any sexual orientation.

“The DfE will be looking into these schools.”

Pavan Dhaliwal, head of public affairs at the BHA said: “It is simply unacceptable that over a decade after the repeal of the pernicious section 28 that these schools continue to enforce similar policies, while others have statements which are overly vague on this matter.