Education chief says ‘huge step backwards’ if schools stop LGBTI lessons

Parkfield Community School muslim parents lgbt protest

The head of the UK’s education standards department, Ofsted, has said religious and LGBTI groups need to have more dialogue.

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman made the comments during a speech at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference.

Spielman was referring to the recent controversy surrounding the ‘No Outsiders’ school program. The program about relationships featured LGBTI elements. But parents at Birmingham’s Parkfield Community School protested the program leading to demonstrations outside the school. The majority of students at Parkfield are mainly Muslim. Their parents argued No Outsider went against their religion to learn about LGBTI couples.

It led to a national debate about the issue and other religious groups joined the protestors.

All groups have a right to representation

In her speech Spielman acknowledged that different beliefs will come into contact at schools.

‘The Equality Act is designed to enforce a number of different rights, and of course there are places where these different rights can bump into each other. We need to acknowledge and discuss this a bit more,’ she said.

‘One clear tension exists in places where equality between the sexes comes second to religious belief and cultural preferences.

‘Another tension arises between religious belief and relationship education, in the context of LGBT issues.

‘And that is all we are talking about here – not sex education, but a simple understanding that just as families worship differently, families also love and marry differently.’

Spielman also argued teachers should be allowed to get on with their jobs without fear or intimidation.

‘It would be a huge step backwards if schools became reluctant to teach children about the diversity of modern Britain,’ she said.

‘I continue to hope that dialogue will remove misconceptions, help people see the bigger picture, and find sensible and workable solutions.’

Spielman has always supported the No Outsiders program. In February she said children should ‘know just enough to know that some people prefer not to get married to somebody of the opposite sex and that sometimes there are families that have two mummies or two daddies’.

 

Author: Shannon Power

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Homophobic leaflets distributed at school amid LGBTI-inclusivity lessons row

Homophobic leaflet

Homophobic leaflets accusing LGBTI-inclusivity lessons of promoting a ‘gay ethos’ have been distributed outside a primary school in Birmingham.

The leaflets, which read ‘We do NOT agree with homosexuality’, were handed out outside Anderton Park School on Thursday (11 April).

The leaflets have emerged amid a row over LGBTI-inclusivity lessons at a separate primary school in Birmingham.

Parents in the majority-Muslim area have held protests and held petitions against pro-LGBTI ‘No Outsiders’ lessons at the nearby Parkfield Community School.

While the No Outsiders program is not taught at Anderton Park School, campaigners have said the lessons taught at each school are ‘the same’.

A local LGBTI rights advocate said he was ‘appalled’ by the leaflets.

A local parent involved in the campaign against the No Outsiders lessons also spoke out against the leaflets, calling them ‘inflammatory’ and ‘unhelpful’.

No Outsiders backlash 

The leaflets state that LGBTI-inclusivity lessons ‘promotes a whole-school gay ethos‘.

‘It teaches children it is OK to be gay in all religions… you can be gay and Muslim‘ one leaflet reads, saying that classes teach ‘4-year-old children that ‘they can be a boy or a girl’ and ‘teaches boys it is OK to marry your best friend ‘Abdul’‘.

The leaflet adds that the classes ‘discriminate against the beliefs of parents and children’, that the campaigners ‘do NOT believe in homosexuality’, and that ‘Parents do NOT want their children’s belief changed.’

The leaflets have caused a notable backlash, with some parents supportive of the campaign against LGBTI-inclusivity lessons distancing themselves from the rhetoric used in the leaflets.

One parent, who choose to remain anonymous, told BBC News: ‘We don’t want our children to be taught about same-sex couples, but we don’t endorse this inflammatory language that is unhelpful and offensive.’

Khakan Qureshi, an LGBT rights activist and gay Muslim, said the leaflets had left him ‘appalled’.

‘These protests and the misinformation shared has now gone beyond the initial concern of age-appropriate to blatant homophobia,’ he said.

Qureshi also called on Birmingham City Council to take action.

Ongoing dispute 

The row over LGBTI-inclusivity education in UK schools has been making headlines since January.

The No Outsiders program is designed to teach lessons topics such as same-sex relationships and gender identity through storybooks.

However, a number of local parents opposed the lessons, claiming that primary school children are too young for such material or that pro-LGBTI education stands in contrast to Islamic teachings.

In recent months, the Parkfield Parents’ Community Group have organized numerous demonstrations outside Parkfield Community School to protest the No Outsiders program.

The school has temporarily stopped teaching No Outsiders lessons and offered to open a dialogue with the parents, though the group maintained that the lessons were still being taught, and called on headteacher Hazel Pulley to resign.

Four other schools have halted their LGBTI-inclusivity lessons following the row.

LGBTI rights advocates, including LGBTI Muslim groups, have condemned the campaigners’ actions, with members of Birmingham’s LGBTI community saying the row had made them feel extremely vulnerable.

Human Rights Watch called for UK schools to ‘stand firm against these protests and support a curriculum inclusive of all children’.

The No Outsiders program has received the support from government education officials, and from the head of the UK’s school watchdog, Ofsted.

Praise for LGBTI-inclusivity education

The No Outsiders program was introduced by Parkfield Community School’s Assistant Headteacher, Andrew Moffat.

Moffat says he has received threats over the lessons, though maintains that the protestors are a small but vocal minority.

The teacher has been widely praised for his contribution to LGBTI education in UK schools, being shortlisted for a global teaching award and receiving an MBE in 2017.

In 2016, Ofsted inspectors ranked the school as ‘outstanding’, praising Moffat and his work in building LGBTI-inclusivity.

Author: Calum Stuart

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LGBTI people in Birmingham have ‘never felt move vulnerable’

lgbti muslims at a pride parade

Members of LGBTI Birmingham’s community said they have ‘never felt move vulnerable’.

The comments were made at an open meeting to discuss a row over LGBTI-inclusivity lessons at a local primary school.

There have been numerous protests outside the Parkfield Community School in Birmingham over the school’s No Outsiders program.

The program is designed to teach lessons topics such as same-sex relationships and gender identity through storybooks and was introduced by teacher, Andrew Moffat.

The demonstrations, which have been comprised of several hundred people, have been organized by local parents in the Muslim-majority area who feel that primary school children are too young to learn about LGBTI issues.

Opponents of No Outsiders have labeled lessons as ‘toxic’ and ‘disgusting’, and that they ‘[undermine] parental rights and authority’.

The protests have been condemned by LGBTI rights organizations, including local Muslim groups.

Local police have said that the protests do not constitute hate speech, though have come ‘very close’ on occasions.

‘Conversations are just starting’ 

Around 100 people attended the open meeting in Birmingham’s gay village on Thursday (28 March).

The meeting included members of Birmingham’s LGBTI community, some of the parents, and representatives of the local police, BBC News reports.

At the meeting, the majority of LGBTI attendees agreed that they felt increasingly threatened, anxious and frightened.

Local equal rights group Birmingham LGBT said there had been a rise in hate crimes in the city.

Insp Matt Crowley said that while the protests did not constitute a hate crime, they had come ‘very close to that line’.

The meeting was organized by Ann Sawyer and Saima Razzaq from the Supporting Education of Equality and Diversity in Schools (SEEDS) campaign.

‘Hate comes from ignorance and we’ve been trying to dispel that ignorance by sharing our lives,’ Sawyer said.

Razzaq added that: ‘Clearly there were bigots, but [the protests were] pitting two marginalized communities against each other,’ and that ‘conversations are just starting, it’s going to take many years.’

Earlier this month, Parkfield Community School announced that it would stop the lessons ‘until a resolution has been reached’.

Four other Birgminham schools followed the move by also halting their classes on LGBTI-inclusivity.

However, Moffat has said that the program has not been scrapped, and is only on a temporary hiatus.

Ongoing saga 

The controversy surrounding protests against the No Outsiders program has been making headlines since January.

The issue has led to an increased discussion about the importance of LGBTI-inclusivity education in the UK’s public schools.

Numerous LGBTI rights advocates and members of education organizations have come out in support of lessons on LGBTI equality.

The UK’s education minister, Damian Hinds, has expressed his support to LGBTI-inclusivity lessons.

The No Outsiders classes have also been praised by the UK’s school watchdog, Ofsted.

However, a number of people have also spoken out against including LGBTI education in the UK’s school.

Conservative politician and Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said it was ‘absolutely right’ parents should have the right to remove children up to a certain age from classes about LGBTI rights.

Local Labour councilor, Mohammed Idrees, also came out in support of the parents in January.

Awarded for progressing LGBTI education 

Moffat, Parkfield Community School’s Assistant Headteacher, introduced the No Outsiders program around four years ago.

He says that he has received threats for teaching the program, though maintains the protests only represent a small minority of parents.

Moffat has introduced similar LGBTI-inclusivity lessons in various schools around the UK.

The teacher has received widespread praise for his work in LGBTI education.

He was awarded an MBE in 2017 and shortlisted for a global teaching award earlier this year.

Author: Calum Stuart

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