Middle Eastern branches of UK private schools drop anti-gay advice from bullying policies

Rules against homophobia have been removed from bullying charters of British private schools in the Middle East, an investigation has found.

King’s College, Sherborne and Royal Grammar School Guildford (RGS) all have branches in the area, earning them tens of millions of pounds through franchise deals.

But their location in intensely religious societies means they must adhere to the Islamic government’s strict guidelines on ownership, program content and patriotism if they are to obtain operating licenses, the Times reported.

Now a survey has found that several schools have clear differences between bullying guidelines issued in the UK and the Middle East – where homosexuality is often illegal.

In their UK releases, homophobic bullying is clearly referenced and prohibited, while in their Middle Eastern franchises, most or all references to sexuality or LGBT+ students have been removed.

Franchise deals typically see UK schools working with a company in the host country, who pay to franchise their respected names. The franchise schools then follow the British curriculum and customs of the original schools – but only to a certain extent.

In the past, strict rules have meant prohibiting any teaching of the Holocaust, the evolution and even the existence of Israel.

A survey has found that several schools have clear differences between bullying guidelines issued in the UK and the Middle East – where homosexuality is often illegal (Pictured: LGBT+ protest held in Kenya on January 13 2022)

Last night LGBT+ charities urged schools to ‘create environments where all children can grow up accepting each other’.

Mo Wiltshire, director of education and youth at Stonewall, said: “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children should be ‘protected from all forms of discrimination’. These are universal rights.

The Times investigation found King’s College Doha, sister school of King’s College, Taunton, had removed homophobia from the definition of bullying on its website – which is set by the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

While the NSPCC refers to “racial, sexual or homophobic bullying”, King’s College Doha only lists “racial or sexual bullying”.

The charity said it was “concerned” about the change – which King said needed updating. He did not comment further, but said his new anti-bullying guidelines included homophobia.

Meanwhile, RGS bans students from making ‘homophobic’ or ‘transphobic’ comments on its UK website – before omitting such references from its Qatari counterpart’s webpage.

A spokeswoman told The Times it “must comply with the laws of the country in which we operate.”

She added: “The Royal Grammar School Guildford will always challenge bullying, whatever its root.”

Elsewhere, Sherborne School in Dorset is committed to ensuring that its ‘school policies and practices are inclusive and LGBT-friendly’.

However, no such guarantee is offered to students in the Doha branch.

Mo Wiltshire, director of education and youth at Stonewall, said:

Mo Wiltshire, director of education and youth at Stonewall, said: “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children should be ‘protected from all forms of discrimination’. These are universal rights (file photo)

Dominic Luckett, the Principal, said: “Our experience of working with Sherborne Qatar over the past ten years clearly shows us that the school does not tolerate bullying or discrimination.”

Brighton College, whose home is often considered Britain’s queer capital, has three outposts in the Middle East. It wasn’t immediately clear whether his bullying charter omitted homophobia or other LGBT+ references.

However, a former teacher from the Dubai branch said they were forced to cover Israel on world maps. The school declined to comment.

It comes after its director Richard Cairns wrote an open letter in 2020 which lamented “the persecution of members of the LGBT community across the world”.

A spokesman for the Department for Education told The Times that while some international affiliates of UK schools are accredited by the government and follow its independent school standards, others are not and therefore must follow the rules and the laws of their host country.

Those that are approved are subject to inspections and can be closed if serious deficiencies are found.

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