THE Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) will work with with the Federal Government which announced it plans to make changes to the Safe Schools program after the results of a review into the program, despite confirmation it won’t be funded beyond it’s current contract which expires next year.

The Safe Schools programs was designed by the SSCA to protect LGBTI school students from bullying and to educate teachers and school staff about LGBTI issues.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commissioned the review into Safe Schools after caving into pressure from far-right senators and Liberal backbenchers and The Australian newspaper, who suggested the program was trying to “indoctrinate” young children into a gay “lifestyle”.

Conducted by the University of Western Australia’s Professor Bill Louden, the results of the review were delivered to MPs on Tuesday night and Education Minister Simon Birmingham made them public today — which is also official National Day Of Action Against Bullying — along with the changes it planned to make to the program.

Senator Birmingham also confirmed to journalists at Parliament House today the Safe Schools program would not receive any more federal funding beyond 2017.

There was never an intention the program be funded beyond the current contract period,” he said.

“The intention was what the program has done and is doing, developing resources for schools and teachers to use in accordance with their policies and following consultation with their parents and those resources will of course live on, on the Safe School hub website, the education portal for such resources, long after funding may have finished.”

“Senator Birmingham has announced the Federal Government’s recommendations following the review and we welcome the government’s support for the continued delivery of the program. We will work through the proposed changes with the Department and the Minister,” said a spokesperson for SSCA.

“SSCA is a national coalition of expert and highly qualified partners delivering training, resources and support for teachers and schools across the country to ensure students can access education in safe and inclusive learning environments.

“SSCA is committed to ensuring the continued positive impact of this work for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, school staff, and families. We thank the Australian community for their support.”

Some of the outcomes of the review found the content of the four guidelines documents was consistent with the aims of the program, reducing homophobic and transphobic behaviour and intersex prejudice, and gender diverse students.

It also found he language and content contained within the guidelines documents were suitable for teachers, parents, and students.

However, the key changes to the Safe Schools program Birmingham announced today are:

  • Safe Schools will only be offered in high schools
  • Parents will be required to give consent for their children to participate in the program
  • Parenting bodies will have to authorise a school’s participation in the program
  • Links to third party websites and branding will be removed from the program resources
  • The OMG I’m Queer, OMG My Friend’s Queer and Stand Out resources will be restricted from being used in classrooms to only being used in one-on-one discussions between students and key qualified staff
  • Some lessons in the All of Us video education series deemed inappropriate will be removed and amendments will be approved by Department of Education and Training

As noted in Louden’s review, the OMG I’m Queer, OMG My Friend’s Queer and Stand Out resources were never intended for classroom resources but were previously available in school libraries or student support centres.

“They are suitable for use by individual secondary students but may not be suitable for use in some faith-based schools,” Louden said in his review.

WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith, the Liberal Party’s first openly-gay federal parliamentarian, has reportedly backed his government’s response to Safe Schools.

According to Louden’s report, the process of the review involved interviews with a small sample of schools that use the Safe School program, interviews with students, principals, health education and curriculum area leaders, as well as interviews with the Safe Schools Coalition national convenor and their state and territory network partners.

A spokesperson for Safe Schools said they were currently reviewing the government’s planned changes and would make a public statement in due course.

The Star Observer has also contacted Minus18 for comment.

To read Professor Bill Louden’s report in full, click here

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