The National Association of Headteachers has called for PSHE to be made statutory to protect staff teaching controversial topics
Teachers are vulnerable to aggressive challenges from parents who claim they are “brainwashing” their children on controversial issues such as homosexuality, a union leader has said.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, has called for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to be made statutory to protect teachers from threats from parents who disagree with ideas being taught in class.
At a press briefing this morning, the union leader urged for the government to “be strong enough” to absorb the controversy around some topics explored in PSHE, such as sex education, rather than leaving school leaders and teachers “exposed”.
Some parents have chosen to withdraw their children from classes, or have made “aggressive challenges and threats” to staff, around topics like homosexuality, the general secretary said.
In 2014, the police had to be called into a school after parents “barricaded” the headteacher following a row over anti-homophobia lessons.
Mr Hobby said: “We have seen really difficult situations where parents who disagree with the philosophies that are being raised. They say ‘you’re doing this, you’re brainwashing our children’.
“It is really helpful for professionals in the front line who are very exposed to be able to say ‘no this is a duty and it is government regulation that every school in the country does it.”
He added: “These are controversial topics that our society doesn’t wholly agree on and teachers have to be quite brave I think sometimes in in doing that and we should have their back when they do that.”
At the NAHT annual conference next week, the union will renew their calls for PSHE to be given a statutory status by the government in all schools.
Mr Hobby added: “We don’t think we need to make it statutory to make teachers do it. [We should] make it statutory to protect teachers when they do it because otherwise they are vulnerable to accusations that they are pursuing a personal agenda.”
But education secretary Nicky Morgan said earlier this year that she will not prioritise making sex and relationships education statutory in all schools – despite a major campaign by MPs
The minister believes that making PSHE would do little to tackle “the most pressing problems” with the subject.
Ahead of the union’s annual conference in Birmingham next Friday, Mr Hobby said: “By not making it statutory I think the government is making teachers absorb the controversy when it really should be the government who is strong enough to absorb that.”