A primary school that taught children about LGBT+ relationships in an effort to combat homophobia and instil the right to equality in the next generation has said it will hold discussions to address parent concerns about the curriculum after 80 per cent of its pupils were withdrawn by parents in protest. The school has also said that it will not be delivering the lessons up to the end of term.
Parkfield Community School has faced a backlash by predominantly Muslim parents over its ‘No Outsiders’ programme, which uses same-sex stories and activities to instil knowledge and acceptance of homosexual relationships in children between the ages of four and 11.
The school in Alum Rock, Birmingham, had written to parents asking for the “upsetting” weekly protests staged outside its gates to stop, which have seen chants of “shame” from crowds and signs including “education not indoctrination”.
The curriculum, designed to meet the requirements of the Equality Act, was being piloted with five lessons each year featuring stories such as Mommy, Mama and Me and King & King to teach the children that homosexuality is as mainstream and normal as opposite sex attraction.
But rather than being seen merely as a forward-thinking programme that reflects modern society and the advancement of LGBT+ rights in recent years, the parents at the school escalated the row by taking around 600 pupils out of classes claiming that teachers were corrupting the innocence of their children and not honouring their faith.
Discussions Over Lesson Delivery
Facebook group Alum Rock Community Forum celebrated the school becoming “a ghost town” as only 140 students turned up of 700, and claimed the progressive education was “undermining of parental rights and aggressively promoting homosexuality & LGBT lifestyle”.
Leaving many in disbelief that such scenes are still unfolding in 2019, one father at the school Abdul Ma, 46, told The Sun: “This is a brainwash. We bring our children here so they can later work as a solicitor or a teacher, not to be taught about being gay or a lesbian.”
I feel bereft about this, materials are in no way sexualised or inappropriate. My kids have been going to school with LGBT parents in playground since age 3, would it be deemed inappropriate for gay parents to be seen at the school. Knowing about existence is not inappropriate https://t.co/cIdBRiAgrx
— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) March 5, 2019
Senior managers at the school, which is rated outstanding by Ofsted and recognises tolerance, personal liberty and respect as core British values, have said discussions will take place about the delivery of the lessons, citing that “the ethos, the books, the age appropriateness, the lessons and the assemblies” made parents uncomfortable.
In a letter to parents, Excel Multi Academy Trust, which runs the school, added: “The school encourages parents to ask their children what No Outsiders is really about, as the children are very clear there is no focus on one aspect of equality, rather No Outsiders teaches that everyone is welcome.”
The programme was developed by assistant headteacher Andrew Moffatt, who was forced to defend the curriculum after 400 parents signed a petition calling for the lessons to be abolished.
Moffat, who has been awarded an MBE for his work in equality education, became a target for the angry parents after he was open about his same-sex civil partnership in class. He says he has been abused with a leaflet campaign and one parent was heard blasting “get Mr Moffatt out” through a megaphone at the school perimeter.
A Welcoming Ethos For All
The school is due to stop delivering the lessons to the end of term, but has denied that this was a U-turn. “In our Long Term Year Curriculum Plan, this half term has already been blocked for Religious Education (RE). Equality assemblies will continue as normal and our welcoming No Outsiders ethos will be there for all,” they wrote.
Mr Moffatt, who has made the top ten of the prestigious million-dollar Varkey Foundation Global teacher Prize, said that dozens of pupils at the school had supported him through the ordeal.
“I was inundated with little posters and cards that children had made at home saying, ‘No outsiders. Everyone is welcome,’” the teacher told The Independent.
“The first one I got I was quite shocked.”
Parent Fatima Shah sowed the seeds of the protest, telling the BBC: “We don’t have an issue with them learning that yes, you will come across same-sex couples.”
Insisting that the challenge does not come from a site of homophobia, she added: “What we have a problem is his promoting of homosexuality, and that is what he is doing. Telling children as young as four that it’s ok to be gay. It just doesn’t go with our beliefs, our rights”.
Following a meeting between the Board of Trustees for the academy, local MP Liam Byrne, parents and Andrew Warren, the Regional Schools Commissioner for the West Midlands, the Trust agreed in a letter to parents to launch a consultation with parents this half term to “explore equality education at Parkfield”.
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman defended the school, judging it essential that children know that families can “have two mummies or two daddies”.