Birmingham & Black Country

Anderton Park school to close early amid protests

Parents, children and protestors demonstrate against the lessons about gay relationships, which teaches children about LGBT rights at the Anderton Park Primary School, Birmingham. Image copyright PA
Image caption Protests have been held outside Anderton Park School for several weeks

A school at the heart of a row about LGBT relationship education will close early for half-term amid escalating protests.

Parents have been demonstrating outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham for seven weeks.

They argue pupils are "too young" to understand LGBT relationships through storybooks.

The council said the decision to close at lunchtime on Friday, instead of 14:30 BST, was "not taken lightly".

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said demonstrations outside the school had "escalated significantly over the past week".

He said pupils and staff had "shown remarkable resilience in the face of increasingly unpleasant protests".

Another demonstration is planned for Friday.

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips tweeted she would "stand and fight" after she said the school was "forced to shut because of bullies and bigots".

Image copyright PA
Image caption A planned protest is set to go ahead on Friday despite the early closure

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said it was "unacceptable that children at Anderton Park are missing out on education because of the threat of protests".

"I support and trust head teachers to make decisions in the interests of their pupils. It is time for these protests to stop," he said.

The protesters, who are largely parents of Muslim faith, say their children are confused by issues surrounding sexuality, which they also say contradict their religion.

Demonstrations against the No Outsiders programme, created by Andrew Moffat, started outside nearby Parkfield School.

Although Anderton Park does not teach No Outsiders, parents argue the school's teachings are "the same".

Image caption Andrew Moffat pioneered the No Outsiders programme to educate about different relationships

On Wednesday, Anderton Park head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson tweeted a note from pupils saying the protests were making them "unhappy".

She said, on the whole, children were "fed up" and some were "scared".

Lead protester Shakeel Afsar, who does not have children at the school, accused Ms Hewitt-Clarkson - who said she had been threatened repeatedly - of "using innocent children" in response to the note.

He confirmed Friday's protest will go ahead as planned regardless of the lunchtime closure.

The council added it was working with police to support the community when school resumes after half-term.

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