news

Stonewall to file complaint over 'dangerous' education headline in The Times

The LGBTQ charity says the headline 'Teachers told to avoid the β€˜biased’ views of BLM and Stonewall' is "factually incorrect".

2022-02-18

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels

Stonewall has filed a formal complaint against The Times after it printed a headline reading: 'Teachers told to avoid the ‘biased’ views of BLM and Stonewall' on Thursday (17 February).

The article referred to new guidance set out by the Department for Education (DfE) on how teachers should approach political impartiality in school lessons with a focus around subjects considered "contentious". 

However, the guidance makes no reference whatsoever to LGBTQ issues as being controversial, or Stonewall itself. 

"We must challenge this at every turn"

In their response to the article, Stonewall wrote that the headline was "factually incorrect," and that "We will be making a formal complaint to the Times and asking for a correction." 

The charity continues: "The report doesn’t reference LGBTQ+ issues as contentious or politically partisan, because they are simply not. Every mainstream political party supports LGBTQ+ rights, including teaching about LGBTQ+ identities and relationships in school."

It also points to Stonewall being signposted to in the DfE's anti-bullying guidance and that the DfE requires teaching on LGBTQ issues in schools. 

"The line of reasoning that teaching about LGBTQ+ people is "political" or "contested" is dangerous, and this is what led us to Section 28 in the first place. We must challenge this at every turn," Stonewall continues. 

What reference the DfE's guidance makes to LGBTQ issues includes one scenario focusing on the teaching of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK in 1967. 

On teaching this the guidance reads: "It may be important to teach about the prejudicial views held by those that opposed the change," but goes on to say, "Teachers are not required to present these discriminatory beliefs uncritically or as acceptable in our society today.

"They can and should be clear with pupils on the dangers of present-day sexist views and practices, including the facts and laws about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

The guidance does then mention the Black Lives Matter movement by name when advising on how teachers should talk about racism saying teachers "should be aware that this may cover partisan political views". 

"These are views which go beyond the basic shared principle that racism is unacceptable, which is a view schools should reinforce."

One element that could be of concern, considering a push from Liz Truss, the Equalities Minister for UK Government departments to withdraw from Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme is when schools are also advised to be wary of using 'external agencies'.

The DfE says this includes charities and that schools should make sure that resources are "appropriate and in line with schools’ legal duties on political impartiality." However, no example is given. 

"A distinction should be drawn between basic shared principles, such as tolerance and opposition to discrimination and prejudice, and contested partisan political views," it says.

Elsewhere the guidance states that teachers should be aware of personal opinions and presenting them and the opinions of others on issues as fact. 

Attitude has approached The Times for comment. 

Attitude's new-look March/April issue is out now.