LGBT+ lessons: Hundreds of children could be withdrawn from Birmingham school over relationships education, protesters warn

The protests outside the primary school gates have started again

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Monday 08 April 2019 21:19
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Protests over LGBT lessons in Birmingham

Hundreds of children could be withdrawn from a Birmingham primary school that is facing daily protests from families who oppose LGBT+ lessons.

Anderton Park Primary is the second school in the city to face demonstrations from parents who argue that their children are too young to learn about families with same-sex parents.

Now the protest organisers are threatening to take 400 children out of class amid an escalating row over equality lessons. The protesting parents want the headteacher to resign.

Shakeel Afsar, whose niece and nephew attend the school, said a mass withdrawal could take place if the school refuses to suspend teaching about two mummies or two daddies.

Parkfield Community School, another primary school in Birmingham, suspended its “No Outsiders” programme, which uses story books to teach about same-sex couples, after hundreds of parents reportedly withdrew their children from class amid weekly protests.

A petition is due to be handed into Anderton Park Primary on Wednesday calling on headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson to resign and for the LGBT+ inclusive education to be suspended.

Protesting parents will then meet on Thursday to decide whether to withdraw their children.

Mr Afsar told The Independent: “If our letter or petition is not listened to then we will go forward with a mass withdrawal of the school. At least 400 students [would be withdrawn]. Unfortunately the headteacher is putting us into a bracket of homophobia and she is not wanting to talk. She is not helping the situation at all.”

Speaking last month, Ms Hewitt-Clarkson, who has been subjected to chants calling for her to resign, said teachers and parents have called the police repeatedly after feeling harassed by the daily protests during school pickup.

Staff have been given a phone number for a counselling service in the school in the wake of the protests, which have left children in tears and staff feeling “incredibly intimidated”, the head said.

Parents across the country have been leafleting against the government’s decision to make relationships education compulsory in primary schools and relationships and sex education compulsory at secondary schools in England from September 2020.

The curriculum guidance, which a large majority of MPs backed last month, encourages primary schools to teach children about different families, including same-sex parents.

Under the reforms, parents will not be allowed to withdraw their children from relationships classes and from the age of 15, students can opt into sex education regardless of their parents’ wishes.

The headteachers’ union NAHT is to write to school leaders making clear they have a legal duty to teach about same-sex families in primary schools and about sex education in secondary schools.

But the union will urge them to do this sensitively and to involve parents in discussions to explain lessons.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Schools have a duty to eliminate discrimination. The Equality Act places an obligation on schools to talk to pupils about the differences between themselves and their peers.

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“This is important because all children have a right to go home to whatever family they have without being forced to question whether their home life is any less loving, safe or proper than their friends’ families just because they look, sound or seem different. To some, this is unpalatable. But the law is the law. In fact, the law that permits a person to follow their chosen religion or hold a belief without being discriminated against is the same law that protects someone else’s sexual orientation, or disability, or race.

He added: “Each of the protected characteristics are of equal status. The law does not permit schools to pick which ones it educates pupils about.”

Anderton Park Primary School has been approached for a comment.

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