Emma Hardy – 2019 Speech on Relationship Education in Schools

Below is the text of the speech made by Emma Hardy, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, in the House of Commons on 16 July 2019.

I am sure that Members from across the whole House will join me in affirming the importance of accepting that people have different family relationships and that it is not the shape or set-up of your family that matters, but only that you are loved and cared for.

Passing the Equality Act 2010 was rightly a proud moment for our country, but these rights remain only for as long as we fight to keep them. Respect and equality are the true British values. There is no reason to treat sexuality any differently from the way that we discuss any other part of the Equality Act, or families that may have a difference in age or even a disability. The misinformation is vast and in danger of spreading. With respect to the Minister, whatever efforts the Department has been making to counter that misinformation have clearly not worked.​

It is clear from last night’s “Panorama” programme that protests against relationship education are growing across the country. Over 70 schools are now experiencing pressure and intimidation because school leaders are fulfilling their legal duty under the Equality Act. It would also appear, from last night’s “Panorama” programme, that pressure was applied from the Department to Parkfield School to suspend its equality programme to get the school out of the national news. This has led to copycat protests elsewhere, as protesters believe that if they make enough noise, and turn up with loudhailers and hurl abuse at headteachers, other schools will back down, too. There is a desperate need for clear, firm leadership from the Department.

Will the Minister assure the House that Department officials did not pressure the Parkfield leadership team into suspending its equality programme? Will he confirm that he will launch an investigation into such claims? Does the Minister agree with the Government’s lead commissioner for countering extremism, Sara Khan, that the Department has been slow to respond to the growing protests? What lessons have the Department learnt from that? Will the Minister update guidance to schools from “if” to “when”, to ensure that schools have a clear message about the need to teach LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education? Will the Minister send a clear message to school protesters that LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education is mandated by the Government, that compliance will be checked by Ofsted and that attempts to intimidate individual headteachers will not change that?