9. SPECIAL REPORT Issue 668 5 – 11 April 2019 FirstNews by Eddie de Oliveira THE LGBT CLASSES ROW A PRIMARY school in Birmingham has been making the news after angry parents withdrew their kids in a row over LGBT rights. Parkfield Community School’s No Outsiders programme teaches tolerance and respect for people that are different. This upset a majority of parents at the school, so now they’re campaigning for the classes to be scrapped. Why are the parents so angry? And what are the classes all about? THE NO OUTSIDERS PROGRAMME WHAT OFSTED SAYS THE PARENTS’ BACKLASH The programme was started in 2014 by Andrew Moffat, the assistant head teacher of Parkfield Community School. He says the classes “prepare children for modern life in Britain” and that they are about bringing communities together and promoting “British values”. Mr Moffat told the BBC the classes had been working “fantastically” for four years. No Outsiders doesn’t actually talk specifically about LGBT people. It uses children’s books to send out a positive message about diversity. For example, one of the books Mr Moffat uses is based on the true story of two male penguins who raised a chick at New York Zoo. Another book tells the story of a boy who wants to be a mermaid. The programme has been suspended to allow the school to “re-engage with parents”. Ofsted is the organisation that inspects schools in England. Their inspectors make sure places providing education, training and care services in England do so to a high standard. They have ruled that the lessons at Parkfield were age-appropriate. Their inspector said: “A very small, but vocal, minority of parents are not clear about the school’s vision, policies and practice.” He went on to say that parents felt the school focused too heavily on LGBT issues and thought they were not taught in an age-appropriate manner. But the report found that there was “no evidence this was the case”. Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has called on parents to stop the protests, saying they make a “difficult situation worse, while setting a terrible example for the children”. The former head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says that the school should resume the lessons right away. He said parents had to understand the UK’s “liberal values”. Parents who are angry about the No Outsiders programme have taken their kids out of the school and held several demonstrations. Around 600 children are thought to have been withdrawn, which is roughly 80% of the school. The vast majority of these parents are Muslim, and they have argued that No Outsiders goes against their faith. They have described the lessons as “toxic” and “disgusting”, and have been joined in their protests by some Christian and Jewish people too. A West Midlands Police officer said the protests were “very close” to being a hate crime. Members of Birmingham’s LGBT community said they have “never felt more vulnerable” since the protests began. THE LAW OF THE LAND THE ROW GETS BIGGER A law passed in 2010 means that sexual orientation, religion and gender are all protected, and schools have a duty to teach children about “British values”, including tolerance, mutual respect and the rule of law. On the subject of removing kids from school, the law says that parents “must make sure [their] child gets a full-time education”. Kids can only miss classes if they are sick or have advance permission from the school. Four other schools in Birmingham have stopped teaching about LGBT rights as a result of complaints from parents. These schools have decided to suspend lessons until after the Muslim celebration Ramadan ends in June. One of the protesting parents, Amir Ahmed, said: “Morally we do not accept homosexuality”. But a gay Muslim activist in Birmingham, Khakan Qureshi, said: “Myself and many others knew from a young age that we were different and we wish we had this sort of education.” He said the attitudes of the protesters towards No Outsiders was “completely homophobic”. Homophobia means prejudice towards LGBT people.
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