Opinion: Don’t believe everything you read in the papers…

I’ve learnt again this week that it’s not a good idea to believe everything you read in the papers. In this case, it was a story in the Sunday Telegraph suggesting that the Government were changing the wording of “Academy Funding Agreements” on the teaching of marriage. Thankfully, it turned out to be a non-story.

Academy Funding Agreements are the governing documents for academies and Free Schools and are agreed between the Secretary of State and the governing body of the Academy, and the story suggested there were “strict new rules” about marriage.

However, a bit of digging indicates that this is a storm in a teacup. There’s been no change to the wording, it’s just the same as it was before.

In fact, the DfE has now put out a press line which says:

There has been no change in the Government’s position on this issue. Academies, just like all other maintained schools, must have regard to the statutory guidance on sex education contained in the 2000 Learning and Skills Act passed under the previous Government. It says young people must learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children. All that is different from maintained schools is that this rule is being written into academies’ funding agreements – as was the case under the previous Government.

Personally, as Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, I will be constructively discussing with our Ministers, how there needs to be re-think on the form of words used in this document. Since 2000, significant social changes have occurred with the legislation of civil partnerships and now a formal consultation will be launched in 2012 on equal civil marriage for same-sex partners. Therefore, though marriage remains an important institution, there are many other kinds of family units which should be fully recognised and explicitly discussed in all sex education teachings, and I know that many others are hoping that the Government’s review of Personal, Social and Health Education will have a fresh look at these issues. Thankfully, we have the right Ministers in the right place with the views we believe in as a Party and therefore at least we won’t have gone backwards before we’ve started.

Adrian Trett is Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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3 Comments

  • I’m missing the part where Labour having introduced the language makes it any less problematic than it being a shiny new Conservative invention? If anything, the fact that it’s passed by 10 years of Civil Service scrutiny makes it even more worrying.

    It’s simply not the case that the legal position on recognised partnerships has undergone change and we’re waiting on that being reflected in the language of the funding agreement. The SRE guidance from 2000 explicit acknowledges other forms of stable relationship, yet the funding agreement (a year younger, as I understand it) eschews that language in favour of a focus on marriage.

    Dismissing it as a storm in a teacup is completely unhelpful.

  • I’m more concerned about the idea that free schools are exempt from feeding their pupils healthy food. Mind you, I read that in the papers so its probably made up too.

  • The lib dems were trying to introduce an amendment in the education bill to cover other types of relationships alongside marriage in SRE teaching but it looks like it’s got nowhere, Why?

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2010-2012/0067/amend/ml067-vii.htm

    “The Secretary of State must issue guidance designed to secure that where sex and relationships education is given to registered pupils at schools in England to which this section applies they learn about the nature of marriage, civil partnership, and other strong and stable relationships and their importance for family life and the bringing up of children.”

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