National Education Union (NEU) members have backed a call for more LGBT+ initiatives in schools at their annual conference in Harrogate

Drag queen story time for primary school children prompts backlash from parents

A new motion from the largest teachers union in the United Kingdom demands schools support drag queen story time to help create safe spaces for LGBT students. 

During its annual conference in Harrogate, England, last week, the National Education Union passed Motion 34, titled “Raising the aspirations of LGBT+ students in our schools.” The conference highlighted what it says is an apparent lack of “LGBT+ inclusive education” and spaces for students to discuss their gender or sexuality. 

The motion claimed that some schools have not allowed LGBT authors to visit and that the “far right” has attacked “creative initiatives” like drag queen story time. 

These include drag queen storytime as well as inviting LGBT+ authors to speak to pupils. Members argued in a conference motion that such activities will help to challenge the “heteronormative” culture and curriculum which “dominates” education. 

Teachers voted through the motion after Shelby Millard, a teacher working at a secondary school in Sutton, Surrey, told delegates that Rishi Sunak “is supporting the far-Right attacks on drag queen storytime” and “the murder of beautiful souls like Brianna [Ghey].”

Delegate Sara Hope told the conference it took her almost a decade to find an LGBT+ safe space when she was a student, adding: “For many of our LGBT+ students in schools right now things haven’t really changed.

The motion added: “The Government is creating a hostile environment for trans people through the use of Section 35 to block the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Act.

However, the motion stated that these LGBT student groups “often exist in isolation from each other.” 

“It is the educational duty of the union to publicly raise the aspirations, hopes and dreams of LGBT+ students and encourage all schools to set up LGBT+ spaces,” the motion reads, arguing that creating spaces for these students challenges “the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools.”

Two teenagers were charged in February with the murder of transgender teenager Brianna Ghey, who was found with stab wounds in a park. 

The union later issued a statement saying that Ms Millard “unreservedly apologises for the wording of her conference speech” after she met with NEU officials. 

An NEU spokesperson said: “She apologises and withdraws the specific allegation that Rishi Sunak supported the murder of a young trans girl. Many trans and non-binary teachers feel strongly that the Government is not doing enough to support them but it is essential that we always debate policy solutions in calm and measured ways.”

In a Wednesday statement on the passing of Motion 34, NEU Joint General Secretary, Mary Bousted, believes that the push for “inclusive teaching” is necessary at a time when many young people are being “targeted online with intolerant and divisive ideas” from social media influencers like Andrew Tate.

The former professional boxer was arrested in December alongside his brother and two Romanian women on allegations of human trafficking, rape and committing the crimes of constituting an organized criminal group. 

MPs and groups such as the Women’s Rights Network have raised concerns that drag queens provide sexualised adult entertainment that is not suitable for children.

Miriam Cates, Conservative MP, said: “It is highly concerning that the NEU is endorsing the exposure of young children to drag queens dressed and performing in a highly sexualised way in the supposed safety of the classroom. I can’t believe that most teachers or parents would support this and I would urge the NEU to revisit some basic safeguarding principles.”

Tanya Carter, from Safe Schools Alliance, said: “NEU’s persistence in abandoning established safeguarding the minute they are distracted by glitter and rainbows brings the entire teaching profession into disrepute. This is an insult to our members and all other teachers who work incredibly hard to protect children.”

Bousted asserted that LGBT spaces and networks are “now more necessary,” accusing the government of not doing enough to protect trans-identifying individuals. 

The motion comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed concern about the content of sex education materials being taught in U.K. schools. The prime minister is reportedly considering the option of launching a review of “age-appropriate” sex education materials, according to The Telegraph

Last October, Christian parents who pulled their children out of a church-run school and claimed two boys in their sons’ classes at the age of 6 were allowed to identify as girls received a commitment from the British government to reform trans-affirming policies in schools.

A report from the U.K.’s National Health Service advised doctors against encouraging minors to socially transition, proposing a more watchful approach to treating gender dysphoria in children. The report warned doctors that children who profess to identify as the opposite gender may be in the middle of a “transient phase.” 

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