Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham LGBT school row: Parents' reaction 'bitter'

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Media captionAngela Eagle: "We aren't going to get back in the closet"

Some parents' reaction to a row over LGBT teaching has been "increasingly bitter and polarised", an MP has said.

Roger Godsiff, whose Birmingham constituency covers one of the schools involved, spoke during a Commons debate on the issue.

He applauded what he said were 256 schools in the city which had "got the teaching right", while two schools seemed to have "gone very wrong".

Education minister Nick Gibb said the government would support schools.

The row, sparked by storybooks featuring different families, has caused protests outside schools in Birmingham since January.

Mr Godsiff has previously supported protesters outside the school gates.

The Labour MP for Hall Green was given a warning by Labour's chief whip, Nick Brown, on 14 June not to repeat his support for the protesters outside Anderton Park.

They argue that pupils are "too young" to learn about LGBT relationships, which they also say contradict Islam.

During the debate, Mr Godsiff said: "I do not accept the argument where there couldn't have been parents' meetings at the [two schools involved]."

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Image caption "Parents were entirely excluded" from consultation on the teaching, MP Roger Godsiff said

Parents were "entirely excluded" from consultation on the teaching, Mr Godsiff said.

The MP added: "I came to the conclusion that the parents that were protesting had some valid reasons for doing so, as the head teacher seemed totally unwilling to have meetings with parents to address their concerns and seek a comprise way of resolving the conflict."

He also criticised the head teacher of Anderton Park Primary School - Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson - for what he said were tweets that contributed to a "breakdown of trust" between the school and parents.

The BBC has approached Ms Hewitt-Clarkson for a response.

Mr Godsiff said the protesters were "mostly young mothers who have done nothing wrong than be good mothers who want to express concerns about what their children are telling them".

He added: "To call parents who are participating in highly organised police supervised protests a 'mob' which needs to be 'sorted'; which accuses Muslim parents, mostly young women, of 'homophobic hatred'. I don't think that is helpful in reducing tension."

The MP had previously been criticised after admitting he had not read the books used in the teaching.

Image caption Protests have taken place at Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham for months

Labour MP Angela Eagle said the motivations of some protesters had been "reactionary".

She said: "We aren't going to get back into the closet or hide or be ashamed... and nor are we going to allow a generation of pupils that are now in school to go through what the pupils of the '80s had to go through, because this chamber let them down. And nor are we going to let this to happen in the name of religion."

Education minister Nick Gibb said the government had introduced the regulations for making relationships and sex education compulsory in schools, and was determined to press ahead with the policy.

He said: "We will be on the side of the head teacher in making these decisions because we do believe that ultimately the content of the curriculum is a matter for schools."

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