LGBT lesson row head teachers 'feel alone' and unsupported

By Sima Kotecha
Midlands correspondent, BBC News

  • Published
Media caption,
What is in the books that Parkfield parents are protesting about?

Head teachers involved in a row over primary school LGBT rights classes say they "feel alone" and unsupported.

Parents, mostly of Muslim faith, have protested outside Parkfield Community School in Birmingham arguing their children should not learn about same-sex relationships.

More than 85 heads met with Department for Education (DfE) officials and the council in Birmingham on Friday.

The DfE said the schools can teach LGBT content but do not have to.

The No Outsiders project was halted at Parkfield Community School after demonstrations by some parents who said they believed the subject was "undermining parental rights and authority".

Deputy head teacher Andrew Moffat, who devised the programme, has said it was not about sex education but "community cohesion" and "people getting along".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The lessons were halted as the protests at Parkfield School continued

The private meeting on Friday, which lasted more than two hours, included DfE officials, Ofsted, Birmingham City Council and members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

Head teachers who spoke after the meeting expressed their frustration over a lack of clarity and support for equality teaching.

One head, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "We feel completely alone here and feel as if we're getting no overt support whatsoever from the government.

"There was so much anger in the room and tears."

Image caption,
Parkfield Community School has said it was "simply teaching children about different families"

NAHT national secretary Rob Kelsall tweeted soon after the meeting: "DfE guidance on relationships and sex education still inadequate and open to interpretation.

"Government need to step up and sort this out. School leaders are legally bound and morally driven to teach and promote equality."

The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect people from discrimination in the workplace and applies to schools and academies.

It states disadvantages suffered by people connected to a particular characteristic - disabled pupils, or gay pupils who are subjected to homophobic bullying - should be removed or minimised.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Protestors have gathered over several weeks

At the meeting there was an overwhelming call from head teachers in the room for the government to be clearer in its guidance as to how equality should be taught in the classroom.

There were also demands for officials to put out a statement in support of the teachers.

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head teacher of Anderton Primary school in Birmingham, told the BBC: "Not only have central government been silent about all this, but the info they've put out is contradictory.

"Equality is non-negotiable and by not being clear, they're fudging it [equality] and not giving us their backing."

For more than two months, hundreds of parents have protested against children from the age of four being read cartoon books which tell stories about same-sex relationships.

The row has spread nationwide, with parents in the north and south of England making the case for their children not to be taught about same sex couples because of their religious beliefs.

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