The head of the UK’s education standards department, Ofsted, has said religious and LGBTI groups need to have more dialogue.
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman made the comments during a speech at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference.
Spielman was referring to the recent controversy surrounding the ‘No Outsiders’ school program. The program about relationships featured LGBTI elements. But parents at Birmingham’s Parkfield Community School protested the program leading to demonstrations outside the school. The majority of students at Parkfield are mainly Muslim. Their parents argued No Outsider went against their religion to learn about LGBTI couples.
It led to a national debate about the issue and other religious groups joined the protestors.
All groups have a right to representation
In her speech Spielman acknowledged that different beliefs will come into contact at schools.
‘The Equality Act is designed to enforce a number of different rights, and of course there are places where these different rights can bump into each other. We need to acknowledge and discuss this a bit more,’ she said.
‘One clear tension exists in places where equality between the sexes comes second to religious belief and cultural preferences.
‘Another tension arises between religious belief and relationship education, in the context of LGBT issues.
‘And that is all we are talking about here – not sex education, but a simple understanding that just as families worship differently, families also love and marry differently.’
Spielman also argued teachers should be allowed to get on with their jobs without fear or intimidation.
‘It would be a huge step backwards if schools became reluctant to teach children about the diversity of modern Britain,’ she said.
‘I continue to hope that dialogue will remove misconceptions, help people see the bigger picture, and find sensible and workable solutions.’
Spielman has always supported the No Outsiders program. In February she said children should ‘know just enough to know that some people prefer not to get married to somebody of the opposite sex and that sometimes there are families that have two mummies or two daddies’.
Author: Shannon Power
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