Exclusive: Ofsted Chief Inspector Says Parents Cannot 'Pick And Choose' Over LGBT Lessons

Amanda Spielman warns Tory leadership contender Esther McVey: "This is about the Equality Act."

The chief inspector of schools has warned parents cannot “pick and choose” whether their children go to lessons about LGBT relationships.

In comments aimed squarely at Tory leadership contender Esther McVey, Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman urged people to respect the Equality Act as she defended lessons that prepare children for “life in modern Britain”.

The former work and pensions secretary was doubling down on comments she made previously over protests at Anderton Park Primary School, in Birmingham.

Some parents want to remove their youngsters from the school’s ‘No Outsiders’ lessons, which teach children about LGBTQ+ relationships, race, religion, adoption and disability.

McVey claimed “parents know best” and should have the right to decide what their children learn.

But Spielman questioned “where would it end” as she voiced fears parents would demand children are removed from science lessons “because they didn’t want their children knowing about evolution or reproduction”.

“My eyebrows went up a very long way,” said Spielman, describing her reaction to McVey’s comments.

“To be clear, this is about the Equality Act, which says children must be taught respect for the protected characteristics and to the extent we have got a case where it says this isn’t a pick and choose whichever one’s parents feel like.”

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman
PA Wire/PA Images

The Equality Act is aimed at protecting people from discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.

Spielman said the new relationships education lessons were “age appropriate” and not to be confused with sex education, which is not mandatory until secondary school.

But she added that opt-outs would undermine the National Curriculum.

She said: “The idea that, on the one hand, children need to be prepared for life in modern Britain and this is an obligation for all schools, yet at the same time parents can opt out completely ... well, what would you do if parents could opt out of biology, could opt out of geography, because they didn’t want their children knowing about evolution or reproduction? Where would it end?

“At the point you start saying every parent can choose which topics, we have completely lost sight of a national curriculum, of a national education system that prepares all children in this country.”

A High Court injunction was granted on Friday to stop the protests at the school in Birmingham and Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said the demonstrations “have to stop”.

Spielman also said, however, that Hinds should offer clearer national guidance for all schools.

It follows a call at the National Association of Head Teachers’ conference that official teaching guidance on LGBT love was unclear.

The issue was “tough” for headteachers, said Spielman, and “schools need a bit more help”.

“Until relatively recently it has probably been reasonable to assume that your typical parent group would be relatively easy to get agreement on 98% of what a school did and have some difficult conversations at the very edges,” she said.

“I think that balance has probably changed as we have become more diverse. I think that job of creating and holding consensus has become harder and harder.

“And on some of the really difficult things where it has become really clear that people with a different focus on different protected characteristics - some around faith, some around sexuality - find it harder to find a position around which everyone can be comfortable.

“That’s the point at which a clearer national view that lifts some of the responsibility off individual heads, and says ‘this is the decision we have reached collectively’ would be helpful.”


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