Children should learn about same-sex relationships, Yorkshire poll finds

Parents should not have the right to refuse lessons on same-sex relationships, according to the results of a new poll, but there are concerns about the age that children involved.

Parents and teachers are in favour of the lessons

Researchers at Leeds Beckett University, polling 366 parents and teachers in the wake of protests in parts of the country, asked questions over opinions to access and delivery.

There is overwhelming backing for schools to teach children about LGBT identities, the poll has found, with 94 per cent of respondents agreeing it was important.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But a lower proportion, at 73 per cent, agreed that lessons in same-sex marriage should be delivered from the age of four, and just 50 per cent agreed that children of this age should learn about transgender identities.

Professor Jonathan Glazzard and Samuel Stones, from the university’s Carnegie School of Education, jointly carried out the research.

“It is possible that respondents feel that young children need to be protected from learning about LGBT identities and relationships, either because they feel that the content will cover sex or because they believe that young children are easily influenced,” they said.

“This raises some interesting issues. Firstly, some children at the age of four have same-sex parents. They are aware of same-sex relationships and they may have brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles in their family who identity as LGBT.

“If these identities are not visible in the school curriculum they can start to feel that their lives are not reflected in the school.

“Secondly, it is interesting to note that there is divided opinion on the teaching of same-sex marriage, despite the fact that in the early years children learn about heterosexual relationships through topics on ‘family’ and role-plays of mock straight weddings.

“Why is it acceptable to teach children about heterosexual relationships and not about LGBT relationships and identities?”

There has been much debate on the subject nationwide, with teaching union delegates last week backing a motion for lessons to be made compulsory in UK primary schools.

Earlier this month, the Education Secretary said that children should learn about diversity in the classroom, and not in the school playground or from the internet.

Damian Hinds, speaking in relation to a parent protests over the issue in Birmingham, said learning about the diversity of society was an important lesson for children to grow up with.

The results of the new poll are reflective of this, with 88 per cent of respondents feeling parents should not have a right to withdraw children from lessons.

The majority, 94 per cent, felt that schools had a responsibility to promote inclusion.

“The curriculum simply seeks to educate children that people and relationships are different but differences should be respected and celebrated,” researchers Mr Stones and Prof Glazzard concluded.

“Young children need to be aware of LGBT people and relationships because the school curriculum should prepare children for life in a socially inclusive society.

“The LGBT curriculum does not teach children about sex. It teaches children about identities and relationships.”