January 22, 2011
Children are to be taught about homosexuality in maths, geography and science lessons as part of a Government-backed drive to "celebrate the gay community".
Lesson plans have been drawn up for pupils as young as four, in a scheme funded with a £35,000 grant from an education quango, the Training and Development Agency for Schools.
The initiative will be officially launched next month at the start of "LGBT History Month" – an initiative to encourage teaching about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual issues.
The lesson plans, spread across the curriculum, will be offered to all schools, which can choose whether or not to make use of them.
But critics last night called the initiative a poor use of public money which could distract from the teaching of "core" subjects.
Among the suggestions are:
Maths – teaching statistics through census findings about the number of homosexuals in the population, and using gay characters in scenarios for maths problems;
Design and technology – encouraging pupils to make symbols linked to the gay rights movement;
Science – studying animal species where the male takes a leading role in raising young, such as emperor penguins and sea horses, and staging class discussions on different family structures, including same-sex parents;
Geography – examining the transformation of San Francisco's Castro district in the 1960s from a working-class Irish area to the world's first "gay neighbourhood", and considering why homosexuals move from the countryside to cities;
Languages – using gay characters in role play scenarios, and teaching "LGBT vocabulary".
The lesson plans, written by teachers and backed by the Department for Education, will be available for schools to download from the Schools Out website.
For younger children, the plans will suggest using images of same sex couples and also promoting books such as "And Tango Makes Three", which is about two male penguins raising a young chick, inspired by actual events at New York's Central Park Zoo.
The Schools Out organisation, which runs the month-long event, declares on its website that the aim is to "celebrate the lives and achievements of the LGBT community" and "encourage everyone to see diversity and cultural pluralism as positive forces".
However, Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley and a member of the Education Select Committee, said: "This is nonsense.
We have enough problems in our country, where we are too far down the national comparative league tables in these core subjects.
"Teachers should concentrate on teaching the core subjects, so we become the best at those again. I don't see how introducing LGBT themes into those subjects is going to help.
"This is not about being homophobic, because there are other schemes around the education system which support the LGBT agenda."
John O'Connell, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, added: "Parents will wonder if this is the right use of funds and time in those subjects, particularly when we keep hearing how tight budgets are."
Sue Sanders, from Schools Out, defended the project.
She said: "These lessons are not big tub-thumping lessons about LGBT and nothing else.
"All we are attempting to do is remind teachers that LGBT people are part of the population and you can include them in most of your lessons when you are thinking inclusively."
David Watkins, a teacher involved in the scheme, said: "We don't want teachers to start out saying 'This is a gay lesson.' We just want lessons that don't ignore that there are lesbian and gay people who suffer from issues and problems.
"When you have a maths problem, why does it have to involve a straight family or a boyfriend and girlfriend? Why not two boys or two girls?
"It's not about teaching about gay sex, it is about images and exposing children to the idea that there are other types of people out there."
A spokesman for the TDA said the funding was secured last March and that £20,000 was to go towards the lesson plans, with the rest spent mostly on the website.
A Department for Education spokesman added: "These are optional teaching materials.
Ultimately, it is for heads and teachers to choose the most appropriate teaching resources to help promote equality and tolerance."
LGBT History Month started in 2005 and has previously focused more on raising awareness of prominent figures said to be homosexual.
A list on its website includes Hadrian, the Roman emperor, Michaelangelo, the Renaissance painter, Alan Turing, the mathematician, and Will Young, the singer.