May 10, 2019

Last year the Government proposed what amounted to a ban on disagreeing with same-sex marriage in all independent schools in England. Debate was going to be closed off.

We are delighted to say that the effective ban has been reversed. Debate is explicitly protected in the final version of the independent school standards guidance. The position of teachers is now much safer. A real achievement for C4M supporters.

The draft had said that official school standards were breached if a curriculum “suggests that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships should not be recognised as being lawful unions under civil law”.

This raised the prospect of Ofsted failing a school if a teacher said they backed the repeal of same-sex marriage. If it was merely ‘suggested’ in lessons that some people disagreed with gay marriage there was a risk that too could fall foul of the guidance.

The wording was completely unacceptable and had to change. We expected even more draconian plans for state schools.

Thank you if you responded to the consultation or emailed your MP. Your hard work has had a positive impact on the final version of the guidance. Now, the equivalent paragraph says there would be a breach if the curriculum:

were to facilitate debate on same-sex marriage, but teaches pupils that the parties to such a marriage do not merit the protection which the legal status of marriage or civil partnership affords in law – although teaching that the faith position of the school is that marriage is only between a man and a woman is acceptable” (see paragraph 2.15).

Young people will learn that same-sex marriage exists and carries all the protections which marriage affords. No surprise at all. And of course, all people must be treated with respect. Obviously. But just because same-sex marriage exists doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. So we’re very pleased the guidance now allows room for argument.

Schools with a faith position are now given a clear assurance. They can teach that “marriage is only between a man and a woman”. This seems to have incensed Humanists UK, but they also campaign for the abolition of faith schools.

The final version is significantly better than the draft, though we would have gone further. The key test is how the guidance is understood and applied in practice. In the coming months, we’ll be keeping a close eye on that.

Thank you for getting involved and making a difference. It shows once again what we can do if we stand together for marriage.