LGBT charities criticise Esther McVey sex education remarks

The Conservative Party leadership contender managed to draw the ire of organisations including Stonewall after she suggested parents could pull children out of LGBT-focused school lessons

Esther McVey (Getty Images)
Esther McVey (Getty Images)

LGBT charitable organisations have criticised remarks from the Conservative Party leadership candidate Esther McVey after she said that parents should be able to stop their children being taught about LGBT issues in schools.

Yesterday, McVey, MP for Tatton and a former Work and Pensions secretary, told Sky News that she thought parents should be able to remove children from LGBT education classes at school.

"I believe parents know best for their children," McVey said. 

She added that parents should have "the final say" over what their children were taught. 

"If parents want to take their young children – primary schoolchildren – out of certain forms of sex and relationship education, then that is down to them," she said.

LGBT relationships are on the school curriculum, but that has recently been the subject of protests by some parents at schools in the West Midlands.

Stonewall said in a statement it was vital that LGBT issues were on the curriculum to ensure LGBT children felt accepted in society.

Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, said: "Teaching about LGBT families is hugely important and is exactly why Stonewall was set up 30 years ago.

"It ensures children from LGBT families see themselves reflected and know there is a place for them in society. It also helps all young people grow up knowing there’s nothing wrong or unusual about being LGBT and helps prevent the anti-LGBT bullying that remains widespread in our schools."

The charity also warned that current debates about the teaching of LGBT issues echoed those around section 28, a law introduced by the Thatcher government in 1986 that effectively banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in British schools.

Section 28 was repealed in 2003.

"Today, conversations about LGBT-inclusive education echo those messages from back then," Russell said.

"Now, more than ever, we need everyone who cares about equality to show their support to make the world a better place for every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person."

Sue Sanders, chair of the charitable incorporated organisation Schools OUT and founder of LGBT History Month, told Third Sector there was a substantial risk that LGBT children could be put at risk if they did not get the right information at an early age, and heavily criticised McVey’s comments.

"I was appalled," Sanders said. "She is ignoring totally the law of the land.

"Leaving it to parents would mean that some of our LGBT kids would be at great risk, would not get proper information and would not know where it was safe to be or have links to local youth groups."

Sanders said McVey’s comments risked exacerbating hate crime against LGBT people. "What she is doing is making the culture comfortable for people who feel they can discriminate against LGBT people," Sanders said.

"I suspect what she is doing is trying to link with the extreme right wing, who are feeling somewhat cornered at the moment. It feels like section 28 all over again.

"I thought it was a very ill-thought-through comment, or very specifically thought-through in that she wanted to appeal to a particular niche of her voting base."

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