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Scotland sets precedent: First country to introduce LGBT+ curriculum in schools

Amalie Sortland July 7, 2020
Scotland sets precedent: First country to introduce LGBT+ curriculum in schools

Although Pride month is over, July brings good news from Scotland. 

Scotland becomes the first country in the world to introduce LGBT+ inclusive curriculum in schools. This includes lessons on LGBT+ history and issues faced by the community, such as homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Inclusive sex education will also be implemented. 

The lessons will be delivered to all public school students from 2021. 

Paul Twocock, Chief Executive at Stonewall, an LGBT+ rights charity in the UK, said of the legislation: “LGBT-inclusive education is life-changing teaching for so many young people, which is why it’s so powerful to see so much of the British public support the new legislation”. 

“It’s essential the Government invests more in training and resources to better prepare teachers and schools to deliver high-quality LGBT-inclusive teaching now and in the future.”

What’s the history behind the legislation?

In November 2018, Scottish Ministers accepted in full the proposal forwarded by a working group led by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign and Stonewall Scotland. The group called for an end to the “destructive legacy” of Section 28; a piece of legislation from the 1980s that banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools. Section 28 was repealed by Scotland in 2001 and in the rest of the UK in 2003. 

Although Section 28 was repealed a long time ago, findings from the 2017 National LGBT Survey found that 77% of respondents have never discussed sexual orientation and gender identity in school. Where these issues were discussed, only 9% of the respondents said the material had prepared them for life as an LGBT+ person and/or addressed the issues faced by the community.

According to Stonewall, 45% of LGBT+ students are bullied for their identity.

Scotland’s new inclusive curriculum is an effort to improve acceptance and understanding within and of the community. 

Co-founder of TIE Jordan Daly said of the legislation: “This is a monumental victory for our campaign, and a historic moment for our country. The implementation of LGBT+ inclusive education across all state schools is a world first. In a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBT+ young people that they are valued here in Scotland”.

SCOTLAND, PERTH, PERTHSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM – 2019/08/07: Members of the march are seen holding signs and banners at the Perthshire Pride. Perth plays host to the event Perthshire Pride, an annual event for the LGBT+ community to stand against hatred and other social problems they face. (Photo by Stewart Kirby/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Where do we go from here?

Sadly, the topic of LGBT+-inclusive education in UK schools remains a controversial debate for many.

In 2019, steps were taken for LGBT inclusion in England’s schools. From September 2020 all secondary schools will be required to teach pupils about sexual orientation and gender identity. All primary schools will be required to teach about LGBT families. 

Stonewall has found that 60% of British people support teaching children about diverse family structures including those with same-sex parents. Support is higher among young people.

However, the percentage that remains unsupportive is part of the problem that the LGBT+ rights movement is still facing in Britain. There is also little mention of education inclusive of LGBT+ history and the movement itself in the rest of UK schools today.

Despite the massive stride toward equality, Scotland’s status as the first and only country to teach LGBT+ history in schools highlights the rest of the UK’s, and the world’s, lack of this education.

So, who will follow in Scotland’s footsteps toward inclusive LGBT+ education? 

It remains important to recognise that there is still a long way to go.

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Recent Politics graduate from the University of Edinburgh.