From September 2020, new regulations for teaching relationships and sex education (RSE) in English primary and secondary schools will come into force.
All secondary schools will be required to teach pupils about sexual orientation and gender identity, and all primary schools will be required to teach children about different families, which can include LGBT families.
The hope is that by talking about these topics, children from LGBT families will see themselves represented in the classroom, not seeing themselves as different from those around them. Secondary school children will be brought into a discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity that will hopefully combat the anti-LGBT bullying that can be a problem, and perhaps help children who are struggling with these feelings themselves.
The Stonewall School Report in 2017 found that almost half of LGBT pupils are bullied for this in secondary school, and more than half felt there was not an adult in school they could talk to about this. Many people hope that the introduction of this new curriculum will help to lower this figure significantly, as sexual orientation and gender identity become something to be discussed openly in the classroom.
With gay couples and characters becoming more prominent features in popular TV shows, and a trans character and storyline in the Australian soap Neighbours, it seems that mainstream culture is catching up, allowing LGBT people to see realistic representations of themselves and their families on TV.
What do the guidelines on RSE for schools actually say?
For secondary schools, the new guidelines say that RSE must be taught in all schools in England. As well as this, sexual orientation and gender identity must be explored at a timely point. Same-sex relationships must be included within lessons discussing healthy relationships. Finally, schools should "be alive to issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, homophobia and gender stereotypes” and also take action to build a culture where these are not tolerated.
For primary schools, the new guidelines say that RSE must be taught in all primary schools in England. It is recommended to teach sex education too, though schools can opt out of this. Schools must teach about different families, which can include LGBT families but also single parent families, adoptive parents, foster parents and families headed by a grandparent.
An important point to note here is that schools must also comply with the Equality Act 2010 which explicitly states that sexual orientation and gender reassignment are protected characteristics. This means it is against the law to discriminate against someone based on these.
These new regulations come into force in September 2020, and cover all schools in England - including private schools.