Education secretary John Swinney yesterday announced that all state schools in Scotland will be supported to teach LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersex) equality and inclusion.
The move was warmly welcomed by politicians and gay rights campaigners, but there was concern from religious groups that families who were not committed to “radical LGBT politics” would feel isolated.
Last night the Scottish Government confirmed that the initiative would run in conjunction with its Curriculum for Excellence, which takes effect from when children enter school aged four or five until they leave.
When asked how LGBTI matters would be dealt with when it came to the youngest pupils, a Scottish Government spokesman said it was “for schools to decide how they deliver education, based on the needs of the children or young people”.
Under the initiative, LGBTI equality and inclusion will be taught across age groups and subjects and will be grouped under various themes.
According to Mr Swinney, the themes will include LGBTI terminology and identities; tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia; prejudice in relation to the LGBTI community; and promoting awareness of the history of LGBTI equalities and movements.
Speaking at Holyrood, Mr Swinney announced the Scottish Government will accept all 33 recommendations made by the LGBTI inclusive education working group.
It means all state schools will teach pupils of all ages about LGBTI equality, with the government to fund training on this for teachers.
Ministers will also ensure all schools have “appropriate” LGBTI teaching resources for lessons.
Research by TIE (Time for Inclusive Education), which has campaigned for the initiative, had previously revealed four out of five teachers do not feel adequately trained to tackle homophobia, biphobia or transphobia.
TIE research has also found that 90 per cent of LGBTI people experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at school.
TIE co-founder Jordan Daly hailed Mr Swinney’s announcement and declared that the “destructive legacy” of Section 28 – which banned the promotion of homosexuality – had been ended.
“We are delighted that LGBTI inclusive education will now become a reality in all of Scotland’s state schools,” he said. “This is a monumental victory for our campaign and a historic moment for our country.”
He added: “The implementation of LGBTI inclusive education across all state schools is a world first and, in a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland.
“Eighteen years from the repeal of Section 28, we can finally put its destructive legacy to bed.”
But Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, which has almost 6,000 supporters in Scotland, said: “Parents, pupils and teachers expect schools to do all they can to stop bullying of any kind. But they don’t want to see controversial political agendas embedded across the curriculum. Maths lessons should be about maths, not LGBT politics.
“There are a diversity of beliefs about LGBT issues in Scotland. The approach adopted by the Scottish Government assumes there is only one acceptable view.
“What this means is that children from families who do not share this commitment to radical LGBT politics will be made to feel isolated in their schools.
“LGBT activists are often highly intolerant of traditional religious views and the people who hold them.”
But Mr Swinney took issue with Mr Calvert’s view. The education secretary said: “I am aware that some may say that LGBTI inclusive education could undermine the values of their faiths or beliefs. I do not take this view.
“Human rights and the values of respect and tolerance are universal. Children and young people should feel happy, safe, respected and included in their learning environment, and all staff should be proactive in promoting positive relationships and behaviour in the playground, classroom and society.”
The announcement was broadly welcomed across Holyrood, with Labour’s Iain Gray describing the Tie campaign as “powerful, persuasive and long overdue”.
Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton also congratulated TIE – but had to remove one of their rainbow-coloured ties after being told by Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh not to wear such “ostentatious campaign material”. Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “While I meant no disrespect to the Parliament or the Presiding Officer, Lib Dems exist to fight for a world that is free from conformity and I want to do everything I can to further the aims of the Tie campaign.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the campaigners on Twitter, saying: “Well done to the @tiecampaign and others who worked so hard to achieve this outcome and ensure that LGBTI inclusive education will become a reality.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell also congratulated the TIE campaign.