LGBTQ+ primary education: Debunking myths of old

Illustrated by Patrick O’Reilly

In January this year a handful of Birmingham and Manchester primary schools became hosts to parent protests as a result of their implementation of LGBTQ+ inclusive PSHE lessons.

Illustrated by Zoe Boltt
and some talented nursery school children

This new addition to the primary curriculum has sparked a whole array of views on whether LGBTQ+ education should be mandatory for children under 11.

Some of these views can be seen on the Question Time episode in Sheffield and the debate held on This Morning.

There is one such view, widely consumed on social media, which sticks out from the rest. That of Katie Hopkins.

Since being hurled into the public eye during Sir Alan Sugar’s hunt for his next Apprentice in 2007, Hopkins’ purposely provocative opinions have only appeared to build in absurdity and pander increasingly to her far-right following.

At first the nation despised her, many found her too offensive, too abrasive and far too arrogant. But twelve years on, she continues to push the limits in an attempt to hold on to what is left of her career and frankly – it’s embarrassing.

Using just one print out from The Sun as a reference piece in her latest broadcast, this vlogger style video promoting her blaring homophobia and transphobia suggests her own methods for sourcing information to fuel her controversial views are indeed limited. A great start.

In the video, Hopkins can be seen suggesting to her audience that the government intend to implement ‘compulsory LGBT sex education’ for 4/5 year olds. A complete and deliberate distortion of the truth. The truth being that schools are to explore identity and diversity with their pupils by, for example, teaching them the existence of same gender families just as they already do of traditional families.

This initiative has been proposed to reduce homophobic and transphobic fuelled violence. The books introduced into the curriculum teach children to recognise and celebrate differences. It should be noted that this is the first time in 19 years that they’re changing the relationships and sex education guidance. LGBTQ+ visibility has progressed an incredible amount in this vast period of time, so surely our education system is due an update.

Talking about the importance of this change, Education Secretary Damian Hinds explained on Question Time, Sheffield:

“You could have another child in your class who has same-sex parents. It is much safer to have a child have the opportunity to hear about that and discuss that in a safe environment at school from a teacher than it is to pick it up on the internet or just to hear what other kids are saying”

The ‘No Outsiders’ programme led by researchers from Sunderland, gives children five lessons a year during which they will read books featuring same-sex parents such as ‘Mommy, Mama and Me’ by Lesléa Newman. This is a traditional style educational children’s book, depicting an average family day playing hide-and-seek and dress-up with two mothers at the head of the family.

Other methods of teaching equality and inclusivity to the children under this project involve puppetry and plays. The core aims of the initiative are to ‘reduce vulnerability to radicalisation and extremism’ and ‘create a positive school ethos where everyone feels they belong.’

An example of one of the books used in the No Outsiders programme
Source: Amazon

Being LGBTQ+ is not inherently sexual, and Hopkins’ leaping interpretation of the equality programme from an inclusive educational experience to a perverted sex-ed class for toddlers is extremely telling of her own ignorance.

This kind of aggressive ‘journalism’ on social media is hugely harmful to minorities in this country. Repeatedly Hopkins uses the word ‘indoctrinated,’ and other highly emotive language to engage her audience. The use of this technique is lazy, sloppy and ultimately dangerous for people who take their news from social media. It is scare mongering and results in prejudice filtering down through society.

This is the (unfortunately, all too common) misconception that the parent protestors in schools such as Parkfield Community Primary school in Saltley, Birmingham, share with Hopkins.

400 parents, according to The Guardian, participated in the ruthless pursuit of shutting down the ‘No Outsiders’ equality programme. Ironically, the school had previously been awarded the highly coveted ‘outstanding’ rating by OFSTED in 2016, with the report referencing the impressive inclusive curriculum. One child from the aforementioned primary school had even told the inspectors that
 ‘everyone is an insider in our school, there are no outsiders, whatever their beliefs, whatever their colour, gender or sexuality’.

This is not the first time Katie Hopkins has attacked the community. In June 2015, she voiced her opinion on same-sex couples receiving fertility treatment on the NHS in her column for The Sun. As you might imagine, it was outspoken, outrageous and uncalled for.

“No, I don’t think the NHS should pay for IVF for gay couples. Yes, all diversity officers are lunatics.”

As someone who previously attended such events as the 2015 LGBT awards, and once declared that she aimed to become a gay icon, Hopkins seems to have misplaced or misunderstood her own beliefs yet again… Need I remind you of...‘Your child’s called India’.

It is harmful to deny LGBTQ+ children the representation they need in the media and in the classroom. It teaches them that their narratives are not worthy of being shared which can lead to internalised hatred and trauma. It then creates more harm to project the prejudice and phobic viewpoint that there is something inappropriate about their existence, particularly if you are someone with a large, public platform.

Agree or disagree with Katie Hopkins’ caricatured opinions, I leave you with a quote on the No Outsiders scheme from a pioneer of the equality in education programme, and deputy head teacher at Parkfield, Andrew Moffat:

“Children go to school to learn, and it’s up to us to make sure that equality is always on the curriculum.”

Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous and Ruby Hinchliffe

Currently, Helena is working full time in hospitality. When she's not working, she's writing music and was previously a volunteer at the LGBT Centre in Birmingham, UK. Her specific areas of interest are gay rights, political leaders and upcoming artists.

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