The TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) petition calling for mandatory LGBTI inclusive education was considered closed today by the Public Petitions Committee.
Campaigners Jordan Daly, Liam Stevenson and John-Naples Campbell attended a parliamentary hearing in October 2015, where the trio presented a case which outlined a need for improved teacher training in relation to LGBTI issues and for a curriculum that recognises the needs of all students, in an effort to tackle homophobia and other forms of discrimination within schools.
Yesterday, the Committee was faced with deciding the appropriate next steps after corresponding with the Scottish Government, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) – with the campaigners expressing their dissatisfaction with the level of commitment from each.
In a letter to the Committee, the Scottish Government agreed that prejudiced based discrimination should be tackled within schools, and highlighted their strategy to update the National Bullying Policy.
Daly, Stevenson and Naples-Campbell – giving evidence on TIE’s petition, which initially called for the “Statutory teaching of LGBT+ issues” – have argued that the Government should set aside specific funding for schools to send staff on specific training programmes which highlight how to best tackle and teach LGBTI issues within a learning environment.
Despite statistics showing that as many as 1 in 4 LGBTI pupils who have been subjected to direct homophobia in Scottish schools have attempted suicide, and that 54% are deliberately and regularly self harming, the Committee closed the case – taking no further action – citing that there is not necessarily a statutory curriculum in Scottish schools, with the exception of Religious and Moral Education.
Having considered the petition and requested evidence from the government, COSLA and the EIS, the committee decided to close the petition on the basis that it is unable to take the issue further.
Committee convenor Michael McMahon MSP said: “It was said at the time [the meeting of October 2015] that although there was a lot of sympathy for the petition itself, when you’re asking to set in stone something in the curriculum it’s not a thing that happens as such.
“I think the issues that were raised [were recognised by the committee] …the committee took it forward and asked for such a comprehensive analysis of the situation. I think the responses were positive but I don’t think we can actually ask the government to do what the petitioners ask and set up something in the curriculum to force local authorities and teachers to teach it in the way they ask.
“I think they’ve raised a very important issue but I don’t think there’s anything more we can do with the petition.”
Upon hearing the news, TIE Co-Founder Jordan Daly expressed criticism of the decision. He said: “The Government’s current strategy to address this is not working. To close our case on technicality is shocking: there was no further consideration of any of the strategies or solutions that we handed to the Committee. With the lack of governmental commitment to tackle these issues, it is setting us on a trajectory whereby they will still be here in ten years time.”
The TIE campaign has attracted considerable support in recent months.
A similar petition in 2014, from student organisation Sexpression calling for statutory sex and relationship education (SRE) in Scotland, was closed on the basis that the Scottish Government had given a commitment to raise the profile of SRE when it publishes its revised guidance and that submissions received by the committee from educational bodies and local authorities were supportive of the current non-mandatory provision of SRE.