Impartiality Guidance For Schools Protects Marriage Supporters

Mar 2, 2022

The Department for Education caused a stir recently when it took action to curb the politicisation of the classroom. Issuing new guidance on political impartiality in schools, the Department sought to remind schools in England of their existing legal duties, in respect of not being biased when it comes to sensitive or political issues.

Covering topics such as the history of the British Empire and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the guidance reminds teachers that under the Education Act 1996 it is unlawful to promote partisan political views. It also urges them to be cautious about offering their own political views in class.

This is an important intervention for marriage supporters, because same-sex marriage is a political policy. So it too should be debated in class without the assumption that everyone agrees.

The guidance says that “many ongoing ethical debates and topics will constitute a political issue”. That is the case “even when the main political parties and other partisan groups agree on a view, but there is not a wider consensus in public opinion” – such as with same-sex marriage. For more about the guidance, see our new briefing.


Critics of the new guidance, such as Mary Bousted, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said that it “does not so much clarify existing guidance as add new layers of mystification and complexity” for teachers and school leaders.

“This could induce such a level of uncertainty and caution in schools about ‘political issues’ that they are less likely to engage with them”, she said.

However, the guidance in fact brings admirable clarity to the rules, which have been on the books for 26 years but are very variably followed. When it comes to real marriage – where we know from C4M supporters there is a real risk of schoolchildren being made to feel there is something wrong with them – this clarity is very good news.