As schools across the United Kingdom prepare to begin implementing the national Department of Education’s inclusive Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, some Catholic primary schools are being recognized for already establishing inclusive curricula and for supporting LGBTQ students.
The new national directives require all primary schools to provide relationship education that promotes healthy friendships and safety. All secondary schools will provide sex education that includes LGBTQ content. The RSE should provide support to students “whatever their developing sexuality or identity” may be, according to the government’s FAQ on the curriculum.
Church-run primary and secondary schools in the U.K. are subject to the new provisions. While some Catholic dioceses and schools are determining how to respond to the directives, some have already been providing LGBTQ-inclusive material. St. Peter’s Catholic Primary School in the Warrington Local Authority of the Archdiocese of Liverpool proudly displays “The Rainbow Flag Award” on their website’s homepage. The school received the award in recognition of its commitment to “LGBT+ inclusion and visibility,” assuring every aspect of the school was a safe space for LGBTQ students and families. In collaboration with the Rainbow Flag Award organization, schools such as St. Peter’s meet standards of inclusion in curriculum, pastoral support, policies, and student empowerment.
St. Peter’s follows the archdiocese-approved course, A Journey in Love, which teaches primary students about the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of human relationships through a Catholic lens. The school, however, supplements A Journey in Love with LGBTQ affirming children’s books and resources, including The Family Book, And Tango Makes Three, My Uncle’s Wedding, and In a Heartbeat. Their curriculum incorporates resources that will teach students about LGBTQ relationships following the same developmental themes of the approved course. The supplemental material promotes social skills, recognizing unity in diversity, understanding and accepting one’s own identity, and accepting the identities of others.
Mrs. Helen Lea, Headteacher at St. Peter’s, believes inclusive education is central to the school’s mission to be a “loving, caring Catholic community working together in serving God, where each child is given the opportunity to achieve their full potential.” Rather than seeing the school’s Catholic identity as a barrier to LGBTQ inclusive education, Lea sees respect and acceptance of the LGBTQ community as central to the faith’s core values. Rachel Williams, who helped develop the RSE described Mrs. Lea’s commitment and passion:
“[Mrs. Lea] never questioned for one minute, that LGBT+ inclusion was incompatible with the Catholic Church ethos. On the contrary, Helen used the core values of faith—kindness, acceptance and inclusion—to have absolute conviction that LGBT+ people, as part of our world, also needed to be a positive part of our education.”
St. Peter’s has also adopted school policies that make the primary school a safe space for LGBTQ students, families, and employees. The “Equality Information and Objectives Policy” specifically states its intent to “eliminate prejudice, unlawful discrimination and victimisation within the school community and workforce,” recognizing that people have historically been discriminated against based on “gender reassignment,” “marriage/civil partnership,” and “sexual orientation” among other classes.
The accompanying anti-bullying and safeguarding policy and procedures make St. Peter’s Primary Catholic School a model of LGBTQ inclusion in Catholic primary schools. A number of other schools in the Archdiocese of Liverpool have also implemented LGBTQ inclusive curricula.
St. Peter’s Catholic Primary School should be applauded for its exemplary LGBTQ inclusive curriculum and atmosphere of acceptance and love for LGBTQ students, families, and staff. Primary schools throughout the U.K. and throughout the world, should follow their example. Here in the U.S., Catholic schools should take notice that the authentic Catholic approach to education, inspired by the core values of faith—kindness, acceptance, and inclusion—is one that welcomes, embraces, and nourishes the LGBTQ community. To exclude, target, and punish LGBTQ students, families, and teachers is a betrayal of our Christian principles and a failure to provide the values-based education we promise. Schools such as St. Peter’s prove that the future of the Catholic Church is one in which it supports all people to achieve their full human potential.
—Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, May 6, 2020