Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham LGBT lessons 'not age appropriate' says MP

Protesters outside Anderton Park Primary School, Birmingham
Image caption The complaints focus on lessons for which pupils have been given books featuring cross-dressing children and gay families

The MP for a primary school facing demonstrations over LGBT equality teaching has said such lessons were not always age appropriate.

Roger Godsiff, Birmingham Hall Green MP, said he did not feel four or five-year-olds "could comfortably handle" discussions about sexuality.

The protests' leader said the lessons amounted to "social engineering".

A police chief has called for an end to the demonstrations, saying views were becoming too entrenched.

The city's Anderton Park Primary School has seen weeks of large-scale protests over the lessons.

Labour MP Mr Godsiff said: "As a parent pointed out, some of these children are only just out of nappies.

"Is it age appropriate for them to have to engage with their own sexuality and also learn about other sexualities at that age? That is the issue."

Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption Mr Godsiff said he thought the teaching of these elements of the Equalities Act should be held until children are older

Shakeel Afsar, leader of the Anderton Park protests, said a demonstration on Friday would go ahead without further mediation involving parents.

He said he condemned any threats made to the head teacher or staff.

Andrew Moffat, assistant head of Birmingham's Parkfield Community School which has seen similar demonstrations, previously said there had been a "misconception" about such teachings.

"It's about community cohesion, British values, it's about people getting along and co-existing," he said.

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Media captionWhat is in the books that Parkfield parents are protesting about?

Mr Godsiff has faced criticism for not speaking earlier about the situation in his constituency, including from comedian Joe Lycett.

The MP said he had met with the head teacher of Anderton Park, and sent his personal assistant to meet with campaigners, but felt there had been "no need" to speak earlier.

But, he said: "Some people are now beginning to turn this into a Muslim community versus the LGBT community issue and it is certainly not that."

Image caption Many of the protesters claim primary school children are too young to be taught about same-sex relationships

In England, relationships education will be compulsory for all primary pupils from September 2020.

Mr Godsiff said there were nine protected characteristics covered by the Equalities Act and there was "no need for them to be taught all at once".

Teaching of LGBT rights could be held until children were six or seven, he said.

"These parents do not want to change the laws of the land, they just want the lessons to be taught age-appropriately," he said.

Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, who met with protesters on Monday, criticised his comments, posting on Twitter: "Shall I tell the lesbian moms I know from the school run that it's not age appropriate that their children under five to know about them?"

The complaints, mainly from Muslim protesters, focus on lessons for which pupils have been given books featuring cross-dressing children and gay families.

The demonstrations follow those outside the city's Parkfield Junior School, in March.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Mr Thompson said officers would help those involved in the protests to seek a solution

West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson expressed "growing concern" over the protests in Birmingham and said views were becoming too entrenched.

A number of alleged criminal offences related to the protests in the past 24 hours were being investigated, he said.

The protests had so far been been lawful but were causing growing concern, Mr Thompson said.

Image caption Flyers have been handed out near the entrance to Anderton Park Primary School

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, Anderton Park's head teacher, has received threatening emails and phone calls which are being investigated.

"It is very important all those involved in the dispute at Anderton Park recognise the adverse impact this is having on the reputation of the city, broader cohesion and most importantly the children at this school," Mr Thompson said.

"Views are entrenching with a determination to win this argument.

"This is creating an environment where those who seek division will have cause to celebrate and to exploit."

Mr Thompson added the force "could not solve the problem" but would support those involved to seek a solution.

Similar teaching has been opposed in letters sent predominantly by conservative Muslims to schools across England, BBC Newsnight reported last week.

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Media captionMP Jess Phillips wants exclusion zone at LGBT row school

Ms Phillips has called for an exclusion zone at the school to limit where people could demonstrate.

Ian Ward, Birmingham City Council leader, has asked authority officers to see whether a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) could be used to counter protests.

But Mr Afsar said the school had pulled "the shutters down" on parental engagement and was promoting LGBT lifestyles to children.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson said she believed in "equality for everybody" and was discussing the lessons with parents at 12 meetings between now and the end of June.

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