Saturday, September 09, 2006

Teachers' notes
Teachers' notes - part 1

John Reith said the purpose of the BBC should be to inform, educate and entertain. I doubt Reith wanted to inform people about his feelings for Charlie Bowser, but today's BBC bosses are still determined to keep lgbt people well and truly in the closet, or else used as a joke and source of amusement.

Newsround produces teachers' notes for lessons based on issues in the news. A quick look at a recent Citizenship lesson plan might make you think that the BBC is a fair-minded organisation producing plans to teach tolerance and the value of diversity.

Teachers and kids shouldn't be so easily fooled. The BBC is homophobic in its outlook. There isn't a single lesson plan which acknowledges lgbt kids or the problems of homophobia which they face at school.

The person responsible for the teachers' lesson plans is Paul Whelan. In the summer I emailed him to ask why there is no lgbt-relevant information on the site, and if there are any plans to correct the omission.

Mr Whelan explained the purpose of the lesson plans, and said that editorial values reflect subjects that have appeared on Newsround or its website. He claimed that same-sex relationships are not taught as part of Sex Education until Key stage 4 (age 14-16) at secondary school which, he said, is not their target audience. He said that Newsround’s target audience is now children aged 7-11, however viewers and readers may be as young as five or six. Consequently content that deals with any subjects of a sexual nature requires very careful consideration, due to the different ages and levels of understanding within this audience.

Finally Mr Whelan claimed that they receive a lot of audience feedback and they aim to shape what they do in response to comments. He said he had been visiting schools from around the UK for several years, talking to pupils and teachers. He had also "sifted through some of the many thousands of emails" they receive each year and found that his experience has been that there is "no tangible demand" for more coverage of LGBT issues, and that my comment was "the first such suggestion" he had come across.

I told him that experts recommend challenging homophobia at an early age - Key Stage 1 - addressing children's understandings of diversity and difference, different family structures and what it means to be different from others.

I was surprised he had never heard homophobic language being used on his visits to primary schools and asked if he had ever asked about homophobia and homophobic bullying. I explained that both pupils and teachers are likely to be reluctant to discuss this subject unless he raised the issue first - and even then some might prefer not to talk about it.

Paul Whelan has not answered these questions, however a page which about sex education was removed (see below).

Ever spoken to Paul Whelan at school? Let's have your comments!


First part of the page which was deleted after my enquiry:

Updated 03 December 2002, 15.23

PSHE 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F

Amy Crowhurst from West Sussex is expecting a baby boy in spring 2003.

The father is a boy she met at a youth club. Amy is only 12 years old but decided to keep her baby after seeing his image during a hospital scan.

Learning aims
Why sex education is important
Some sources of advice and information on the web

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