I have a quiet confidence about the Government’s Free Schools programme. I liked the idea from the beginning, I’ll admit, so I haven’t really been converted in any way. However one area that I think the Free Schools will be a good contribution to our society, arguments over the teaching of Latin and vocational studies aside, is education on LGBT issues.
I hear a lot of talk from my colleagues on the Right about ending ‘political correctness gone mad’ (we all know that in reality it hasn’t gone far enough but we’ll let the Thatcherites cling to that for now). I also hear a lot from my friends on the Left about the Free Schools damaging the fight for LGBT rights as schools will not have an obligation to promote equality or diversity (I’ll freely admit this blog piece is in-part a reply to a contrary post).
Now the interesting thing is that whilst it is absolutely true that Free Schools will not have that particular obligation, they will be no more expected to promote or teach other questionable criteria such as Intelligent Design as a science or abstinence as a viable alternative to condoms. The beauty of the Free Schools is that is becomes the right of the educator and the parent to flexibly create a curriculum that is personal to the child.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have been harping on for years about the need to make an individual, personalised curriculum. This is our chance. I, for one, have made it my absolute life ambition to start a Free School mirroring “Egalia”, theSwedish gender-neutral pre-school. (OK, one of my 127 life ambitions; right between being on Question Time and being an Autism specialist.)
OK so we risk LGBT issues getting sidelined in some institutions but look at the flip side; schools with a completely secular, atheist and neutral agenda, schools that can teach LGBT as a separate subject if they wanted to or mainstream it into every subject very openly. This is a chance to get onto that ‘Liberating the Curriculum’ notion that we like so much and to run with it. Don’t want the religious right taking over our schools? Don’t want our children indoctrinated? Me either. So let’s all set-up some pro-LGBT, secular, gender-neutral Free Schools and really let Political Correctness run wild. They’ll wish they’d never complained.