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Catholic primary school asks gay rights group to train staff to handle bullying

Sex education will be compulsuary in all schools (PA)

A Catholic primary school has invited the gay rights group Stonewall to give staff lessons to prevent “homophobic bullying”.

Sarah Crouch, the head teacher at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Wimbledon, south London, invited Stonewall, the gay rights pressure group, into the school to teach staff how to educate children in sexual equality.

The training day went ahead with the consent of all but one of the governors.

Miss Crouch said she called the campaign group into St Mary’s simply to train staff “on how to tackle homophobic language and bullying”.

She said: “As a school, and as Catholics, we are opposed to prejudice of any kind and felt it was important to tackle the issue of homophobic language and bullying.

“The training was very successful and we feel confident that if any incidents of this kind of language occurs our staff have the means to address it appropriately.”

But a source close to the school claimed the training day was arranged after one pupil called another boy’s shoes “gay”. Miss Crouch denied this was the case.

The source also said the training day had the blessing of the Archdiocese of Southwark. The archdiocese was not available for comment.

The decision to allow Stonewall into a Catholic primary has shocked some family campaigners.

Antonia Tully, national co-ordinator of the Safe at School campaign, said the presence of gay activists in primary schools would alarm parents. She said: “Many parents will be very concerned that a gay rights organisation is considered to be an appropriate source of advice on how to deal with children using inappropriate language in the playground.

“If a primary school takes on Stonewall’s agenda young children will be exposed to issues which they are too young to understand properly,” she added.

One Catholic close to the school, who did not wish to be named, said: “I don’t think that teaching ‘mummy and mummy’ is equal to mummy and daddy is right in a Catholic primary school because Catholic Church teaching doesn’t agree with that.”

But Wes Streeting, Head of Education at Stonewall, said that about half a dozen Catholic primary schools had been given the accolade of “Stonewall School Champion”, including St Mary’s. He added: “Thousands of primary schools have received Stonewall’s primary school resources through local authorities, including Catholic primary schools.”

The resources used to guide Stonewall’s work with some Catholic primary schools include a “best practice” guide which advises teachers on how to promote equality in the classroom.

The guide provides case studies of different primary schools, describing how some put up Stonewall posters with the slogan “Different Families, Same Love” with cartoons of same-sex parents.

In another case study a primary school compared books from the 1960s and 1970s that portrayed conventional families with a modern children’s picture book called Prince and Prince.