'No Outsiders' teacher leads Birmingham Pride parade

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Image caption,
Andrew Moffat led the parade with Saima Razzaq and Khakan Qureshi

A teacher whose lesson programme covering LGBT relationships has been at the centre of protests is leading the Birmingham Pride parade.

Andrew Moffat started the "No Outsiders" lessons at Parkfield Community School in the city, which has led to protests by some Muslim parents.

Pride organisers said there was "no-one better" to lead the parade, which started at midday.

Thousands have been expected to attend the annual event, now in its 22nd year.

Image caption,
This year's theme is Love Out Loud which organisers said was a "celebration of our right to love, no matter our gender, sexuality, personal identity, colour, religion or race"

Speaking to BBC News about the invitation to join the Pride parade, Mr Moffat said it was "absolutely wonderful".

He was joined at the front of the procession by Khakan Qureshi, founder of Birmingham South Asians LGBT and Saima Razzaq, from Supporting Education of Equality and Diversity in Schools (SEEDS).

Image caption,
Festivalgoers chose colourful costumes and attire for the parade

"It's so important, isn't it, at this time that we are showing that's what Birmingham is like," Mr Moffat said.

"It's not about protests outside schools, that's not Birmingham. This is Birmingham.

"They're talking about 80,000 people turning up to support Pride.

"That's Birmingham - supporting diversity and community cohesion."

Image caption,
Birmingham Pride is now in its 22nd year
Image caption,
Thousands of people are expected to attend the annual event over the weekend

In 2015, Birmingham Pride awarded a grant of £5,000 to the "No Outsiders" programme, which organisers said was an "incredible initiative".

The "No Outsiders" scheme had been running at Parkfield school since 2014.

It was formed to educate children about the Equality Act, British values, and diversity, using storybooks to teach children about LGBT relationships, race, religion, adoption and disability.

However, some parents with children at the school in Alum Rock raised a petition in January, claiming some of the teaching contradicted Islam.

The protests have since spread to Anderton Park Primary in Balsall Heath with a protest held on Friday afternoon outside the school thought to be the biggest so far.

Image caption,
A protest outside the school on Friday is thought to have been the biggest so far

Those against the inclusion of LGBT issues in classes have said the content contradicts their Islamic beliefs, and have accused the school of not listening to parents' concerns.

But head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said she would "never stop" teaching pupils about equality.

Image caption,
People gathered in Victoria Square ahead of the parade beginning at midday
Image caption,
There are events are taking place in and around the city's gay village on 25 and 26 May

Festival director Lawrence Barton said Mr Moffat had been asked to lead the parade in light of the "division which the controversy over 'No Outsiders' lessons has created".

Image caption,
Everyone seemed to be in good spirits for the festival

Birmingham Pride events are taking place in and around the city's gay village on 25 and 26 May.

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