Legal advice for Independent Schools on LGBT teaching

9 February 2023

In a new online resource, Christian Concern’s Education Department and the Christian Legal Centre lay out how Christian independent schools and teachers can best follow government guidelines relating to LGBT teaching while still respecting their religious ethos.

A new resource has been created by the Christian Concern Education Department and the Christian Legal Centre for those working in the Independent School Sector. Whether you’re a Headteacher, teacher or a governor, this document will help you understand how you can navigate teaching on LGBT issues whilst maintaining your Christian ethos.

Download and share the legal advice guide.

Concerns raised

Many school leaders have become increasingly concerned about how to respond to pressures to teach about LGBT issues to their pupils. This comes in the wake of cases such as Rev. Dr Bernard Randall who was dismissed from his role as school chaplain at Trent College – an independent school which has historically had a Christian ethos – for a sermon he gave at the school on ‘identity politics’. We have also seen that schools are under pressure, even from inspectors, to actively promote and celebrate the LGBT community and their belief and activities, in ways which are counter to their Biblical Christian ethos.

The confusion faced by schools was even noted by Ofsted itself as the regulations and accompanying guidance lack clarity as to what is legally required and what is only recommended, leaving schools unsure about the amount of discretion they have in developing their relationships education programme and teaching on LGBT issues.

Law on your side

Despite this, the guidance for schools produced by the Department for Education on the Equality Act 2010 is clear that it is not the intention of the Act, and by extension parliament, to undermine the religious ethos of any school in how it approaches the teaching of any subject related to the protected characteristics. This would include matters such as marriage, sexual orientation, gender reassignment but also religion.

As our new resource explains, the law clearly does uphold the right of schools to teach in a way that has regard for the religious background of the pupils, respects the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own religious and philosophical beliefs, and to maintain the traditional religious ethos of the school. These factors are arguably more important for schools with a religious character given that many parents choose to send their children there to ensure they receive an education of that nature. It may even be seen as a breach of contract for schools to significantly deviate from what has been promised to be provided to the parents.

Other relevant factors for schools with a religious character to consider would be remaining  faithful the objectives of the school as set out in its Trust deed. Many schools with a religious character, particularly Christian Schools, often have charitable status. This means there is a legal obligation for trustees to uphold the values, vision and purposes of the school as set out in its governing document, which may often mean safeguarding the principles of the Christian ethos on which the school was founded.

Support available

It can be a challenge for school leaders to try to navigate what to sensitively teach regarding LGBT issues, where it appears to be conflicting with their religious ethos. This new resource will help schools to be confident of their rights and what the law actually says on this topic, and to give grounds for Christian governors and school leaders to resist pressures to conform to the agenda of others.

The Christian Legal Centre and Education Department are always willing to give specific advice and support to individual schools on these kinds of issues. The relevant contact details are available on our website.

There is a great heritage of Christian education in our country and it is important to be aware of how challenges can be faced, so that this education can be available for generations to come.

Download and share the legal advice for Independent Christian Schools.

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