Parents continue protests over LGBT-inclusive teaching in schools
Protesters calling for a Birmingham primary school to suspend lessons teaching respect for same-sex relationships have staged a ninth day of demonstrations.
Around 50 adults gathered at Anderton Park Primary School on Thursday as children finished classes – with many holding banners and chanting “let kids be kids”.
The protests come after the city’s Parkfield Community School announced it would be suspending its diversity and inclusivity programme – No Outsiders – until a resolution can be reached with parents.
Although Anderton Park does not teach the No Outsiders programme, some parents have claimed that not enough information has been given out by the school regarding its efforts to teach tolerance and respect of minorities.
Speaking before the latest protest, some of the demonstrators accused the school of “preaching not teaching” and claimed many Muslim parents were concerned at the content of the teaching of LGBT issues.
Urging the head to meet parents collectively, organiser Shakeel Afsar said: “We are very reasonable people. We co-exist on the basis that we must respect everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.
“The school has not co-operated and communicated with the parents, 98% of whom are from a religious background. We are just parents concerned for our children.”
Local Labour councillor Kerry Jenkins, who has supported the school during the demonstrations, said its headteacher had sent several newsletters to parents in recent days.
Ms Jenkins said the school was doing nothing wrong and was fulfilling its duties under the Equality Act.
Asked what she believed the protesters were demanding, she added: “It’s difficult to understand because it’s fluid. It changes all the time.
“Originally it was against No Outsiders but when they realised that wasn’t being taught (at Anderton Park) it changed.”
Ms Jenkins said of the school’s headteacher: “Her door has been open to all parents who have any concerns. She has met with over 40 parents and had discussions with them.”
A group meeting with the protesters was “not the way forward” and the protests were doing nothing to help community cohesion, Ms Jenkins added.
“Parents have got the right to air genuine concerns but it’s hard to find a genuine concern in this protest because the school is not doing anything out of the ordinary. Everybody should be treated equally.”
Commenting on pupils being invited to join the protest, Ms Jenkins said: “Children at this age do not understand what all the commotion is about.
“I find it really disappointing that children are being pulled into this protest.”
The Department for Education has said Parkfield is an outstanding school and it is working with staff and parents to find a solution to the ongoing dispute.
Anderton Park’s headteacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, has said the school does not have a specific programme about any aspect of the Equality Act because it wants to weave it in to “usualise” the language of equality for all aspects of schooling.
A national petition calling for parents to have the right to opt their child out of relationship and sex education has gathered more than 115,00 signatures, forcing the matter to be debated in Parliament.