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Incompetence and inaction: government fails LGBT+ youth

Friday 17-07-2015 - 15:59

During the election in May, it was very exciting to see many political parties, including Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party talking about improving the Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and how LGBT+ relationships can be included in the curriculum.

We all know too well that the education that we receive is far too heteronormative, cis-centric and doesn’t tackle the real inequalities faced by young LGBT+ people in and outside of school.

This week MP’s looked at recommendations that were proposed by the House of Commons Education Select Committee report: ‘Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools.’  The report draws upon past Ofsted reports that showed PSHE required improvement or was inadequate in 40 per cent of schools and that SRE required improvement in over a third of schools.  The Committee strongly recommended introducing age- appropriate PSHE and SRE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools to address the real need for improvement.  However, despite these recommendations and despite the wealth of evidence showing the inadequacy of SRE in our schools, the government has decided to do nothing. PSHE will not be made statutory and it is not clear what will be done to improve the quality of PSHE and SRE across our schools.

This is at a time when the Minister for Education Nicky Morgan, has promised to deliver equality for young LGBT+ people within education.

It is imperative that we start improving SRE education for all young people but it is particularly vital for young men who sleep with men (MSM).   

Public Health England data shows that among younger MSM (aged 15 to 24), HIV diagnoses have doubled in ten years. This increase is partly because there has been an increase in HIV testing amongst MSM but also because rates of HIV transmission remain high. In 2013 the highest number of new HIV diagnoses was recorded for MSM. Without the correct education this trend will only continue and get worse.

We know that mental health also has a huge correlation with sexual and physical health. If we are not talking about  LGBT+ sex and relationships  within our education we will only worsen the stigma and marginalisation of LGBT+ people who already face  bullying and isolation at school.

I’ve spoken quite openly during my time as the NUS LGBT+ officer about my experience of bullying at school because of my identity and my thoughts about how we go about challenging the LGBTphobia that exists within our education system from a young age.

I have spoken about the power of education and how normalising LGBT+ relationships and families will break down barriers around stigma and prevent discrimination.  

The shocking statistic of research conducted by the National AIDS Trust (NAT) found that 55 per cent of surveyed respondents had experienced bullying and discrimination because of their sexual orientation. Of those who had experienced bullying, 99 per cent had been bullied or discriminated against by a pupil at school and over a third 39 per cent had been bullied or discriminated against by a teacher or another adult at school. Furthermore, three quarters had been bullied or discriminated against by someone on-line (including apps, forums or social media).  Similarly, Stonewall research shows that homophobic bullying in schools remains high (almost nine in ten secondary school teachers say pupils at their school are bullied, harassed or called names for being, or suspected of being, lesbian, gay or bisexual.)

It is clear a major cause of bullying and stigma comes from a lack of education around LGBT+ relationships. Yet NAT research shows that Three quarters of people surveyed in had not received any information, advice or support about same-sex relationships and attraction in SRE. A third had not received any information on HIV transmission and safer sex in SRE. Over two-thirds had not received any information on HIV testing.

It is outrageous that in 2015 our education system still fails to deliver an inclusive education system and act to improve sex and relationship education in our schools. The Minister for Education said that we need to address LGBT+ bullying in schools. Why isn’t the minister for Education doing all that she can to normalise our relationships, our lifestyles or even our existence?

Today I will be writing to Nicky Morgan about the fact that the poor quality of SRE taught in our schools is one of the most important inequalities within our education system and needs to be addressed in order to radically improve the lives of many young LGBT+ people. I will also be lobbying other MP’s and the education select committee about how we can ensure that the recommendations can be taken seriously by this government, and how we can make lives better for young LGBT+ people in Education. As a community we should not rest until we have won this battle of inequality.

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