Sexualities and schooling in England after section 28: measuring and managing "at-risk" identities

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In England, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 came to be seen as a powerful symbol of the oppression of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) young people and their teachers. This article offers a reflective critique of research I undertook just prior to the repeal of Section 28 by Tony Blair's Labour Government in 2003. My research tried to measure changes in young LGB people's experience of schooling since 1984. I situate this research partly in a tradition of "political arithmetic" and reflect on the relationships between this form of research- that to some extent has sought to quantify young people's victim status- and government policy and guidance published since Section 28's repeal in which sexualities have either become erased and unspoken or have become what I refer to (after Fuss) as strategically essentialised. Looking to the future and the kind of policy and curriculum development that the young people in my research sample might argue for, I suggest that attention to homophobia must be combined with a pedagogic focus on heteronormativity. This poses a challenge in a difficult policy space where market-oriented, neo-liberal educational reforms seek to define certain disruptive identities as "at risk."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-30
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Curriculum
  • Educational policy
  • England
  • English education
  • Essentialism
  • Heteronormativity
  • Homophobia
  • Pedagogy
  • Political arithmetic
  • Section 28

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