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Religion is a barrier to talking about LGBTQ+ topics, say faith school teachers

24 March 2023


ALMOST half of all teachers in faith schools feel that religion is a barrier to talking about LGBTQ+ topics, a new survey suggests. This is compared with one quarter at non-faith schools.

The survey, conducted by Teacher Tapp, a survey app, on behalf of the charity Just Like Us, and reported in the TES last month, asked more than 7000 teachers whether they felt that religion in the school community had ever been a barrier to discussing LGBTQ+ topics.

In faith schools of all types, 46 per cent said that it either sometimes or always proved to be a barrier, rising to 48 per cent in faith primary schools.

Of that figure, eight per cent said that the religion of the school community was “always” a barrier, and 40 per cent said that it was “sometimes” an impediment to discussion.

The interim chief executive of Just Like Us, Amy Ashenden, said: “We know faith is really important to so many LGBT+ people, and, regardless of who you are, it’s vital that we all learn about the diversity of the world around us and how to celebrate each other’s differences.”

Concerned that faith schools do not have access to appropriate resources to facilitate such conversations, the charity has developed a pack of teaching materials specifically for faith schools.

The Church of England’s chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, told the TES that it was important for schools to encourage “open, age-appropriate discussions around relationships and sex, including learning about and respecting different types of families, LGBTQI+ identities, and genuinely-held positions of faith.

“Within the global Anglican Church and other faith groups, there are diverse understandings about human sexuality and gender. This diversity exists in school communities, too, but we are clear that this should neither be a barrier to open discussion, nor legitimise bullying or discrimination of any kind,” he said.

In October, Mr Genders defended the C of E’s current guidance on challenging homophobia in schools, from accusations that it endorsed gender transition for children as young as five (News, 31 October 2022).

The guidance, Valuing All God’s Children, was first published in 2014, and revised in 2019. In response to questions at February’s meeting of the General Synod, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said that the guidance would be updated again once the Department for Education had released new advice on the subject, expected to be later this year.

Mr Genders told the TES that the guidance had been “widely used and appreciated by Church of England schools and others, and our approach . . . promotes an open and accepting dialogue. We will continue to work with schools to promote and encourage this.”

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