Religion, homosexuality and the contested legal framework governing sex education in England

Robert M. Vanderbeck, Paul Johnson

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This article examines how religion has influenced, and continues to influence, the legal framework that regulates the circulation of knowledge about homosexuality and same-sex relationships within state-funded schools in England. This legal framework has become the subject of considerable recent public and legislative contestation. We argue that religious considerations and interests have contributed to the production and maintenance of an uneven educational landscape in which young people face disparities in their access to instruction regarding issues related to homosexuality and same-sex relationships. Key themes explored in the article include the exclusion of discussion of homosexuality from the requirements of the National Curriculum; the right of parents to withdraw children from sex education; attempts to make some discussion of same-sex relationships a statutory requirement for all state-funded schools, including faith schools; and the uncertain implications of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 for the teaching of sex education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-179
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Issue number2
Early online date28 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Sex education
  • Faith schools
  • Homosexuality
  • National Curriculum
  • Academies
  • Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

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