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No Outsiders: What’s in the program causing protests at British schools?

No Outsiders: What’s in the program causing protests at British schools?

No Outsiders program

No Outsiders is an LGBTI-inclusive education program for primary school children in the UK.

Written by teacher Andrew Moffat, its aim is to educate students about the characteristics protected by the Equality Act 2010.

The Act states that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

Who is Andrew Moffat?

Andrew Moffat is currently the assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham.

He identifies as gay and is the author of several books on equality and teaching.

In his previous school — Chilwell Croft, Birmingham — he tried to implement a resource he made entitled Challenging Homophobia.

But after trying to implement the teaching of an LGBTI-inclusive book, a parent complained their child was learning about homosexuality. The situation escalated with a heated meeting of 40 parents condemning the lessons and Moffat conceding a fight he was ‘not going to win’.

‘It was a very difficult time and I was quite damaged by the experience,’ he said.

Moffat subsequently resigned and moved to the Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, where he is currently employed.

He vowed to change his approach at his new school and tweaked the Challenging Homophobia program to create the No Outsiders program.

Over the course of his time at Parkfield Community School, he slowly began laying the groundwork to implement his inclusive program at the school.

In May 2016, Ofsted (the governing body on education standards in the UK) awarded the Parkfield School ‘Outstanding’ status, as a result of Moffat’s work. They branded the Parkfield Community School as ‘an inclusive school that celebrates diversity’.

Then in 2017, Her Majesty the Queen awarded Moffat an MBE for services to equality and diversity in education.

Gay Star News reached out to Andrew Moffat for comment but he declined to be interviewed at the current time.

Parkfield Community School

Andrew Moffat began teaching at the Parkfield Community School in 2014.

The school has a cohort that is 98% Muslim.

Parkfield Community School muslim parents lgbt protest
Parkfield Community School. | Photo: Google Maps

After presenting his plan, Moffat soon got approval from the governors of the school, as well as staff, to start teaching the No Outsiders program.

Then from September 2014, the school started teaching the program. But in November a year later, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) tried to claim the resource is ‘putting children at risk’.

There was suddenly a surge in complaints, with some parents calling for a public meeting. The faculty offered individual meetings, but only one parent took up the offer and the faculty continued implementing the program.

Over the next couple of years, tensions rose.

But every time there was an objection to the pro-LGBTI lessons, Moffat and the head teacher held meetings for parents to address their concerns. They calmly explained exactly what was in the program and dispelled myths about it.

Numerous schools around the Birmingham area also began adopting the No Outsiders program.

Escalating backlash

The lessons at Parkfield Community School continued uninterrupted until the start of this year. That was when a parent at the school, Mariam Ahmed, started a petition, claiming the program is incompatible with her Muslim faith.

‘Children at this age don’t even know if they are coming or going,’ she said in January. ‘Let alone knowing what sexual orientation they will become.’

Within a matter of days, some parents began protesting outside of the school. Some even forced their children to stay home.

As a result of an escalating situation, Parkfield Community School halted the No Outsiders lessons to ‘re-engage’ with the parents of the school.

But the protests did not stop, growing larger and larger each day.

Conservative Muslim Amir Ahmed then took up the charge of organizing protests outside of six more predominantly Muslim schools around Birmingham.

‘We are a traditional community,’ he told the BBC. ‘We have traditional family values and morally we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have.

He then added: ‘We do not believe in homosexuality but that does not make us homophobic.’

Anti LGBTI education protestors outside Parkfield School (Photo: Twitter) court
Anti LGBTI education protestors outside Parkfield School. | Photo: Twitter

Parents in the Muslim-majority community began removing their children from school in March.

National media storm

It became a highly political and volatile situation.

Politicians, activsts, and more began taking sides in the debate. The head of the UK school watchdog, Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, came down in favor of the schools and LGBTI-inclusive lessons.

However, Esther McVey, a Conservative MP, was recently criticized for saying that parents should have the right to remove their children from primary school lessons on LGBTI-inclusivity if they do not agree with the classes.

Fatima Shah, who was the first to pull her daughter out of lessons, said at the time: ‘We have said we don’t want children in reception to be shown books with same-sex relationships. It’s confusing for them.’

To reduce the likelihood of children having to walk through protests to get to school, the UK’s high court issued injunctions against people protesting outside.

The injunction covers the streets and sidewalks immediately surrounding the school, prevents people from handing out leaflets or flyers and inviting others to protest or congregating outside schools.

It also stops people from making abusive or offensive comments about school staff on social media.

Last week, Parkfield Community School announced it will resume the No Outsiders program, with a slight modification.

‘Following five months of consultation with parents, community representatives and the DfE [Department for Education], Parkfield community school will be relaunching their equality teaching in September 2019,’ a school spokesperson said.

But some parents are not happy with the compromise, choosing to resume protests.

So what exactly does No Outsiders teach?

The name of the program originates from human rights activist Desmond Tutu.

The South African theologian famously said in 2004: ‘Everyone is an insider, no matter their beliefs, whatever their color, gender or sexuality’.

In the introduction of the No Outsiders book, Moffat explained: ‘The aim of this resource is to provide teachers with a curriculum that promotes equality for all sections of the community.

‘But more than that, this resource aims to bring children and parents or carers… on board from the start so that children can leave our primary schools happy and excited about living in a community full of difference and diversity, whether that is through ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or religion,’ he wrote.

It then addresses people of faith being in tension with LGBTI themes.

Moffat referenced the Equality Act 2010 and wrote: ‘The wording of this makes it plain to public bodies (i.e. schools) that promoting some of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act while ignoring others is simply against UK law.

‘So we cannot promote an ethos where people of diverse faith are welcome but people of diverse sexual orientation are not,’ he wrote.

Steps for schools

The next section of the book outlines ways for schools to implement teaching the program. Everyone in the school needs to be on board, including governors, teachers, teaching assistants and lunch time supervisors.

The book then lists ways to promote diversity in school, including:

  • Making a mission statement that promotes diversity for all.
  • Having a school sign-in that asks visitors to read and agree to an inclusive code of conduct.
  • Hanging Equality Act posters around the school.
  • Rewarding students demonstrating inclusive behavior

The program also recommends teachers use inclusive books, such as And Tango Makes Three (a true story about two male penguins who partnered up with one another and raise a chick together), Odd Dog Out (a story about a dog unlike any other) and Julian is a Mermaid (a story about a young boy wanting to become a mermaid).

Frequently asked questions

No Outsiders also has a section on simple answers to challenging questions.

Among them are: ‘How do I explain what gay means to my child?’, ‘How can two men have a baby?’ and ‘But my religion says that gay is wrong?’

But a common question is: ‘Are you teaching gay lessons?’ The program answers: ‘We are teaching about equality. Our school ethos says that everyone is welcome and there are no outsiders. This means that if someone is black, they are welcome in school; if someone uses a wheelchair, they are welcome in school; and if someone is gay, they are welcome in school.’

This section also clearly states no parent can remove their child from the lessons.

‘The law states you can remove your child from religious education of sex education lessons,’ the program explains. ‘But this is a lesson celebrating diversity. The lessons are not one-off sessions; the ethos is all around the school. It is not possible to shield children from the ethos.’

Simple answers to challenging questions
‘Simple answers to challenging questions’ page of the No Outsiders program. | Photo: James Besanvalle

It then explains teaching about diversity cannot ‘make’ a child gay.

‘Visiting a farm does not make a child into a farmer,’ No Outsiders states. ‘Visiting a different place of worship does not convert the child. Reading a book with gay characters in it does not make your child gay.’

It later adds: ‘It’s important that children hear about people who are different. When they grow up, they can make up their own minds about what is right and wrong.’

The rest of the program offers a year-by-year reading list of books and activities that promote diversity in general.

LGBTI Muslims respond

Gay Muslim Khakan Qureshi wrote exclusively for Gay Star News about the rising tensions surrounding LGBTI-inclusive education in Birmingham schools.

‘How on earth did it come to this?’ he wrote. ‘Personally, I advocate and cheer [Andrew Moffat] on for his timely efforts, especially since I know, as a gay Muslim myself, we, as children, are indoctrinated with the mantra “Homosexuality is Haraam”. Haraam meaning sin or forbidden.’

Qureshi then added: ‘I have tried to reason with some of the protestors and asked them to reflect on their words, deeds and actions. I’m determined to challenge the traditional, cultural indoctrination.’

Khakan Qureshi is a gay, Muslim
Khakan Qureshi. | Photo: Supplied

Similarly, queer non-binary Muslim activist Ferhan Khan, 34, confronted protestors outside Anderton Park Primary School — a neighboring school in Birmingham.

Khan, who uses ‘they’ pronouns, didn’t want these protestors to ‘set the narrative’ for how Muslims view LGBTI people.

‘I confronted them because I fundamentally disagreed with them,’ Khan explained.

While interviewing some protestors on camera, they argued they’re not homophobic, they just don’t want their kids learning about LGBTI people.

‘The protestors wanted to silence me by calling me “a vile bigot” and “beghairat” — which means “shameless”,’ they revealed. ‘And by telling me to leave.’

Rainbow Films — a video platform dedicated to empowering the voices of queer people of color — captured the confrontation.

Khan believes there’s nothing ‘to be afraid of’ for Muslim communities with the No Outsiders program.

‘The only “promotion” going on is the promotion of inclusion, love and anti-bullying,’ they said. ‘These are very important messages to teach young children so that we can live in a more peaceful society where everyone is able to respect each other.’

Similarly, gay Muslim woman Nadya Fadih-Phoenix, who is also the Secretary of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality, said the program would’ve changed her life.

‘The extent of my relationship and sex education at school involved a banana and a condom,’ they revealed. ‘And I am still gay.’

They then added: ‘The No Outsiders program will not confuse children. What it will likely do is help provide some clarity should they find themselves identifying as LGBTI in later life.

‘[It’s] about options, it’s about equality, it’s about diversity, it’s about inclusivity and most importantly it is about acceptance,’ they said.

See also

UK high court places bans on Birmingham school protests

Gay mother reacts to anti-LGBTI protest outside Birmingham school

This UK PM hopeful thinks parents should have ‘final say’ over LGBTI education