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Sex education row at academy
4:30pm Tuesday 20th August 2013 in News
SWINDON Academy has defended its sex education policy after concerns were raised that the language used in it appeared to discriminate against homosexuality.
The policies of several schools around the country, including the Pinehurst-based academy, are to be urgently investigated after being accused of banning the promotion of homosexuality.
The policy has been likened to the wording of the controversial Section 28 policy of the Thatcher government, which prevented councils and schools from promoting homosexuality but was repealed in 2003.
Swindon Academy’s policy states: “Staff have a responsibility to engage in objective discussions on homosexuality but not to promote it.”
“I read about this policy and was shocked to see it was a school in my town. It’s very concerning to see this still being pushed in schools.”
Adam, who is a law student, says that while things have improved within the classroom policies such as the one used by the school threaten to turn the clock back.
He said: “It was very difficult at times. I’m not saying gay children are persecuted as much as they used to be but there is a danger this could send out the wrong message.
“This was a policy which was repealed several years ago and it appears the school are bringing the policy back voluntarily.”
But the group which runs the academy, United Learning, has denied this is the intention of its policy, which they will now amend, and says it has worked hard to combat discrimination.
United Learning is a group of 36 schools throughout the country, which have come under fire by gay rights groups online and also national newspapers.
A spokesman for United Learning said: “We are opposed to discrimination of any kind. We were therefore surprised and concerned to find out about this online campaign over the weekend as no one from Stonewall or any other organisation had previously raised this with us.
“We are proud of our track record both as an employer and educator in dealing with issues surrounding diversity. Indeed Swindon Academy has recently completed a major partnership project with Stonewall.
“It is disappointing that no-one chose to contact us before going to the media with these allegations. We are now in contact with Stonewall to discuss their concerns and will of course amend the policy to avoid any misinterpretation in the future.”
National charity Stonewall, which works for equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, has said the school has done good work but the language used within its policy needs changing.
Wes Streeting, head of education at Stonewall said: “Swindon Academy have been doing some excellent work on tackling homophobic bullying, not least through their work on homophobic language as part of the Wiltshire-wide ‘ZeeTee’ campaign.
“Unfortunately, the government guidance on sex and relationships hasn’t been updated since the repeal of Section 28 in 2003, so some schools are still using outdated language.
“That’s why we’re working with Swindon Academy through our School Champions programme to help them review their policies in line with national best practice so that all children can attend school without fear of bullying or prejudice.”
Guidance on sex education handed down to schools by the DfE states: “Sex and relationship education is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching. There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation.”