Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Jim Wells backs concerns over proposal for LGBT staff support in schools

Criticism: Jim Wells MLA
Criticism: Jim Wells MLA
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Plans to set up a support group for LGBT teachers and school staff in Northern Ireland have been delayed after concerns were raised by an Education Authority (EA) board member.

DUP MLA Jim Wells said he supported the concerns, adding that children should not have LGBT issues "forced down their throats" and they should be "allowed to remain innocent".

The EA had been working on a LGBT staff network to promote inclusive work places and ensure that all teachers and staff members feel valued.

The Nolan Show yesterday reported EA board meeting minutes which showed that a newly-appointed member raised concerns the network could see tensions rise between LGBT staff members and boards of governors relating to the "ethos" of their schools.

The board member suggested the EA business plan should be deferred for one month to allow further examination of the terms of reference for the LGBT staff network.

Mr Wells, who does not speak for the party since having the whip withdrawn, told the Nolan Show: "Once again we have a government-funded body who should be dealing with the real crisis in education, which is under funding...

"That is the important issue."

Mr Wells said that he was concerned that a LGBT network would put pressure on education authorities to "teach" homosexuality to young children.

"Children should be allowed to remain innocent, they should not be taught this, particularly when they are very young and we certainly should not allow schools to be used to promote homosexuality," he said.

The South Down MLA also asked why there was not a support network for Christian teachers who feel they cannot expressed their religious freedom in the workplace.

Fidelma Carolan, the regional education officer for Unison, said that she wasn't aware of an instance of that happening, but she stressed all "Christians are welcome to identify within their domination or any religious belief".

She added: "Secondly, we are talking about a staff network...

"As a trade union we want to make sure staff are supported."

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