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Protests over LGBT+ classes ramp up at Birmingham school as MPs back more inclusive curriculum

‘I find it really disappointing that children are being pulled into this protest,’ says councillor

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Thursday 28 March 2019 23:39 GMT
Protesters demonstrate against lessons about gay relationships in Birmingham in March
Protesters demonstrate against lessons about gay relationships in Birmingham in March (PA)

Protests over lessons on same-sex relationships continued into their ninth day at a Birmingham primary school just hours after MPs voted in favour of a compulsory LGBT+ inclusive curriculum in schools.

Megaphone-wielding demonstrators at Anderton Park Primary School want classes teaching respect for LGBT+ relationships to be suspended until a resolution can be reached with parents who oppose the lessons.

Around 50 adults held placards and chanted “our children, our choice” outside the school gates as parents picked up pupils on Thursday afternoon. A group of children joined in with the demonstration.

The protest came after a large majority of MPs – 538 – voted on Wednesday evening in favour of new regulations to make relationships and sex education (RSE) compulsory in English schools from September 2020.

The curriculum guidance, which has been updated for the first time in nearly two decades, encourages primary schools to teach children about different families, including those with same-sex parents.

The Department for Education said it expected secondary schools to include LGBT content in their teaching, whereas at primary level there was no specific requirement to do so.

But some Muslim parents at Anderton Park, who have been protesting daily outside the school since Monday last week, claim the children are too young to learn about LGBT+ issues.

A demonstrator accused the school of “preaching not teaching” and the organiser of the protest called on the headteacher to meet with parents collectively.

Shakeel Afsar, who has been leading the protests with a megaphone, said: “The school has not co-operated and communicated with the parents, 98 per cent of whom are from a religious background.”

Anderton Park is the second school in the city to face protests in recent weeks over diversity classes.

Parkfield Community School has suspended its inclusivity programme ‘No Outsiders’, which uses story books to teach pupils about same-sex families, while it consults with parents who carried out protests.

At least five other schools in Birmingham have made similar moves.

Anderton Park does not teach the No Outsiders programme, but some parents say not enough information has been given out by the school regarding its efforts to teach respect for minorities.

Kerry Jenkins, a local Labour councillor who has supported the school during the demonstrations, said the school was doing nothing wrong and was fulfilling its duties under the Equality Act.

Of the school’s headteacher, she said: “Her door has been open to all parents who have any concerns. She has met with over 40 parents and had discussions with them.”

Ms Jenkins said the protests were doing nothing to help community cohesion. “Children at this age do not understand what all the commotion is about,” she said.

“I find it really disappointing that children are being pulled into this protest.”

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Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, headteacher of Anderton Park, told Sky News earlier this week that she had written to education secretary Damian Hinds urging him to intervene as her school faced a backlash.

MPs took part in a debate earlier this year after a national petition calling for parents to have the right to opt their child out of RSE gathered more than 115,00 signatures.

Under the government’s reforms, parents can only withdraw their children from sex education up to the age of 15 and families cannot take pupils out of relationship classes in primary school.

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