A primary school in Birmingham, England, has suspended a series of classes from its curriculum that encouraged children to embrace diversity and respect how people differ. The LGBTI-inclusive lessons at Parkfield Community School were part of its ‘No Outsiders’ program.
The aim of the lessons was to help reduce bullying. The topics discussed include gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, disability and age.
However, when parents of the school kids – who are majority Muslim – learned about the program, many complained.
Parents have staged protests outside the school. The friction between school and parents escalated last Friday when 600 of the pupils took part in a school walk-out. That represents around 80% of the student population.
The walk-out took place despite the school announcing that no more ‘No Outsiders’ classes would take place for the rest of this term. It says it is now planning to undertake a consultation with local parents over the program’s content.
The lessons were devised by the school’s assistant head, Andrew Moffat, who is gay. Moffat received an MBE from the Queen in 2017 for services to equality and diversity in education. Last year he was one of three British teachers shortlisted for the ‘World’s Best Teacher’ award.
In a statement to parents, the school said, ‘Up to the end of this term, we will not be delivering any No Outsiders lessons in our long term year curriculum plan, as 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.’
Parkfield reasserts support for program
Many media outlets suggested the lessons have been dropped outright, but reacting to a headline on the Guardian newspaper yesterday (‘Birmingham school stops LGBT lessons after parents protest’), the school tweeted its own clarification.
‘We are concerned this headline is misleading. Parent meetings/ workshops are soon to begin and our no outsiders work continues.’
In its statement last week, the school also said some parents were supportive of the lessons.
‘Many parents have approached the school in the last few weeks to express support for the No Outsiders ethos and to say they understand what No Outsiders is about and why it is important to teach children about difference in the UK.
‘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.’
Disappointment at news
Despite this, many LGBTI campaigners and allies have expressed dismay at the news that the program is temporarily on hold.
Benali Hamdache, co-chair of the LGBTQIA Greens group, wrote on Twitter:
‘I feel this really deeply. As a young gay man in a Muslim household I was denied important information. I was castigated and isolated.
‘We shouldn’t be failing another generation. All kids deserve LGBT+ inclusive education at school.’
Hamdache pointed out that kids these days will discover informaton for themselves on the internet, or ‘will hear stuff via friends. Why wouldn’t you prefer the classroom?’
I feel this really deeply. As a young gay man in a Muslim household I was denied important information. I was castigated and isolated.
We shouldn’t be failing another generation. All kids deserve LGBT+ inclusive education at school. https://t.co/keg1Ty6RjO
— Benali Hamdache (@greenbenali) March 4, 2019
UK comedian Shappi Khorsandi called the news ‘really sad’, saying it went, ‘Against everything which makes the world a better place. My godless kids have been taken to every place of worship by school to learn about other people’s beliefs/lives, to teach them about difference. This is no different. Take homophobia as seriously as racism.’
Really sad. Against everything which makes the world a better place. My godless kids have been taken to every place of worship by school to learn about other people’s beliefs/lives, to teach them about difference.This is no different.Take homophobia as seriously as racism. https://t.co/RM4TThs9aq
— Shappi Khorsandi (@ShappiKhorsandi) March 4, 2019
‘No school should be blackmailed by parental pressure’
Shaun Dellenty is a former teacher turned diversity-in-education advocate. His book, Celebrating Difference: A Whole School Approach to LGBT+ Inclusion is out this spring.
He told GSN has had some sympathy with the school.
‘As a school leader, your core rationale is that kids are getting the learning they deserve – that means them not walking through parent protests or being kept away from school.
‘However, it also means that learn about the world we live in, which includes LGBT+ people.
‘The school’s statement suggest its committed to this program. It’s simply taking some time out to talk with parents. There are obviously concerns that need to be talked out and worked through. That’s fine, provided the program resumes and there’s no complete backdown. No school should be blackmailed by parental pressure.’