The Government has revised draft guidance which effectively banned disagreement with same-sex marriage in independent schools across England.
The guidance, challenged by The Christian Institute, stated that a school would breach the Independent School Standards if it “suggests that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships should not be recognised as being lawful unions under civil law”.
The final version of the guidance allows schools to “facilitate debate” and offers a specific protection for faith schools to teach that “marriage is only between a man and a woman”.
Institute Director Colin Hart welcomed the Government’s U-turn.
He said: “When I first saw the draft, I thought it was almost as though someone wanted to ‘weed out’ teachers who believed in Christian marriage.
“We told the Department for Education we were prepared to challenge the guidance in court. Crucially supporters also responded to the consultation or wrote to their MP objecting to the wording.
“These are important gains – it means there is room to debate same-sex marriage in schools. It is still possible the guidance could be misused. But we believe this is less likely with the changes that have been made.”
In a legal opinion commissioned by The Christian Institute, Professor Christopher McCrudden confirmed the original wording amounted to an “effective prohibition” on suggesting that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legal.
Had it remained in place, Ofsted would have been able to fail a school if a teacher said they backed the repeal of same-sex marriage or suggested that some people may disagree with it.
The final guidance reads that the Independent School Standards would be breached if the curriculum:
“were to facilitate debate on same-sex marriage, but teaches pupils that the parties to such a marriage do not merit the protection which the legal status of marriage or civil partnership affords in law – although teaching that the faith position of the school is that marriage is only between a man and a woman is acceptable.”