Thursday, April 09, 2015

UK: Faith school fears as union says teachers must promote gay lifestyle: Leaders call for 'positive portrayal of same sex relationships' to be made 'compulsory'

Schools should be forced to promote gay relationships in sex education lessons, union leaders say.

The National Union of Teachers has called for a ‘positive portrayal of same sex relationships’ in lessons to be made ‘compulsory’ under the next government.

It said MPs had a duty to tackle ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’ in schools and create a ‘positive climate of understanding about sexuality’.

But critics accused the NUT of ‘thought control’ and said the ‘intolerant’ proposals risked ‘oversexualising’ children at a young age.

Meanwhile, Christian groups warned it would compel teachers at faith schools to act against their beliefs.

However, the union said the changes were needed to tackle prejudice which was ‘still strongly prevalent in our schools’.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: ‘This motion is itself an act of intolerance towards mainstream Christians and their beliefs. It would force Christian teachers to have to choose between their faith and their job.

‘I wonder whether Christian members of the NUT who have paid their dues can expect any help from the NUT when their jobs are on the line.’

He added that Church schools already teach ‘love and tolerance’ of others without having to explicitly approve of same sex relationships.

The proposal was contained in a motion on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights passed by the NUT at its annual conference in Harrogate yesterday.

It stated: ‘Conference instructs the executive to call upon the present and future government to … make it compulsory that all schools’ sex education policies include a positive portrayal of same sex relationships.’

The NUT said only 10 per cent of LGBT teachers felt confident to be ‘out’ to students.

Other proposals included promoting LGBT History Month – which celebrates gay and transgender rights movements – in every school.

The motion also advocated supporting transgender students and staff ‘while transitioning and after’.

Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, said: ‘We need education policy that develops curriculum for children and young people that supports the democratic values of a diverse Britain – including LGBT equality.’

The law would also see teachers at Muslim and Jewish schools compelled to promote gay marriage and other issues that go against their beliefs.

The proposal comes amid a row over the government’s new requirement for schools to teach ‘fundamental British values’, which include tolerance of other faiths and lifestyles.

Christian schools have complained they were branded ‘intolerant’ and marked down by Ofsted after children were asked about gays and lesbians.

Durham Free School is set to close after inspectors branded it an educational failure and said some children displayed ‘discriminatory’ views towards people of other faiths.

Meanwhile, Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland was put in special measures after failing to meet Ofsted’s British values criteria. Inspectors were said to have asked pupils if they knew what lesbians ‘did’ and if any of their friends felt trapped in the ‘wrong body’.

The drive was formed in response to the Trojan Horse scandal in which Muslim hardliners allegedly tried to impose an Islamic agenda on schools in Birmingham.

The NUT motion renewed fears teachers would be required to go beyond their remit in tackling such a sensitive subject.

Andrea Williams from Christian Concern said: ‘This kind of policy is dangerous for our children who are being oversexualised at a very young age.

‘They are being introduced to concepts and having normalised same sex relationships which robs them of their innocence and is not good for their emotional and moral wellbeing.’

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘The rights of groups who oppose gay marriage on sincere religious grounds should be respected as much as those who support gay marriage. Thought control should not be promoted by the NUT.’

A Church of England spokesman said it is ‘fully committed to sex and relationship education that allows room for exploration and discussion of relationships, within a framework of Christian values’.

Sex and relationships education is mandatory for pupils at council-run secondary schools. It is also compulsory for children aged between five and 14 at council-run schools to learn about sex as part of the science curriculum.


Free nursery places 'make no academic difference'

£800m has been spent annually on free places for three-year-olds since 1998. Researchers say the main benefit has been to make childcare cheaper for families with young children.

They conclude that while the policy may have encouraged more mothers to return to work, there was no long term effect on children's academic development.

The studies were carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Essex and Sussex universities.

Since 1998 all three and four-year-olds in England have been entitled to 12.5 free hours of early education a week. This has now been expanded to cover disadvantaged two-year-olds, and raised to 15 hours a week.

The hope was to achieve a "double-dividend" - improving children's school readiness and their mothers' employment prospects, the researchers said.

The studies show that between 1999 and 2007, there was a 50% increase in the proportion of three-year-olds in England benefiting from a free nursery place, rising from 37% to 88%.
The policy lead to a 2% increase in the proportion of mothers in paid work, the researchers found.

Among those who did not also have another child under the age of three, there was a 3% increase in the numbers in jobs.

The studies go on to say that overall, the increase in free places improved the results of English children at the age of five by two percentage points on average.

Although there is modest evidence that free places had more impact on poorer children and those learning English as a second language, there is no evidence that it helped disadvantaged youngsters to catch up, the researchers conclude

They also found no evidence of educational benefit at the age of seven and at 11.

Jo Blanden, of Surrey University, said that "on the face of it", the results seemed to question whether the policy had proved to be value for money.  "More than 80% of the children taking up free places would probably have gone to nursery anyway," she said. "And children's test scores do not seem to be any higher in the longer term as a result of the policy."

"In fact the main benefit of the policy seems to have been to make childcare cheaper for families with three-year-olds.  "It is tempting to say that the money would have been better spent on the poorest children.

"However, the policy's universalism may have benefits if it encourages greater take-up of provision among children from more disadvantaged backgrounds or if it mixes children from different backgrounds in the same early education settings."


UK: 80 leading headteachers warn of Ed's U-turn on school reforms: Chiefs use letter to say there is clear evidence academy-style system [charters] is benefiting children

The heads of some of Britain’s best state schools today warn of the dangers of a Labour government reversing radical education reforms.

In a letter to the Daily Mail, 80 current and former leaders say there is clear evidence that academy-style freedoms are benefiting a generation of children.

But they say Labour – and some senior Lib Dems – appear to be threatening to reimpose state controls.

The letter, signed by the heads of good and outstanding autonomous schools, was backed yesterday by David Cameron.

In it, they claim there is evidence that the most successful education systems benefit from schools with academy-style freedoms.

They say such schools are more likely to be ranked ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and more likely to improve.

‘Secondary schools which have converted to academy status outperform other schools – by a margin of almost 10 per cent,’ they wrote.

But the heads expressed alarm at comments by Ed Miliband that Labour would reimpose ‘a proper local authority framework for all schools’.

Senior Lib Dems were also accused of suggesting they no longer support freedom for acdemies, which are able to control pay, conditions and the curriculum.

‘This is not the time to stop something that is working to the benefit of so many children in schools,’ wrote the heads.

Schools on the letter include Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, ranked in the top 100 for GCSE results this year. United Westminster Schools in London is also on the list, and includes Grey Coat Hospital – where Mr Cameron’s daughter Nancy starts this year.

Tom Clark, chairman of Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association, which organised the letter, added: ‘Our only concern is that the autonomy which has worked well for pupils stays in place.’

Mr Cameron said yesterday: ‘Ed Miliband would put all this at risk.’

As the General Election campaign turned to education yesterday, the Prime Minister also attacked Labour yesterday for opposing the expansion of free schools – which are run by groups such as teachers, parents and charities and are outside of local authority control. He said the opposition’s antipathy appeared to be based on a concern that ‘if we set up a good new school, everyone will want to go there’.

‘Yes – that’s the whole point,’ he told the Mail. ‘How can you possibly be against an excellent school setting up another excellent school?’

He accused Labour of being ‘anti free schools’ for suggesting it wants to scrap the scheme. ‘It’s that mindset that says choice, freedom, responsibility, aspiration – that these are things to worry about rather than celebrate,’ he added.

The education reforms, masterminded by Michael Gove, have been hailed by Mr Cameron as the most important ‘for a generation’.


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