Head of opera ban school says she wanted to protect children

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The headteacher of an East Yorkshire school has defended her decision to withdraw her pupils from a community opera over a scene involving a gay character.

Emma Hobbs, the head of Bay Primary School in Bridlington, said she was concerned about the “emotional wellbeing” of the children and wanted to protect them from “offensive language”.

She denied her decision was motivated by homophobia.

Billy Elliot author Lee Hall was commissioned by opera company Opera North to pen a work as part of a community project.

However, Ms Hobbs complained about a scene in which a gay character is insulted. When Mr Hall refused to rewrite the scene, she pulled the children – who made up the bulk of the cast – out of the project.

In the scene, which does not involve children, the character is confronted by youths. The lines are: “Of course I’m queer/That’s why I left here/So if you infer/That I prefer/A lad to a lass/ And I’m working class/ I’d have to concur.”

Mr Hall added that the school had demanded that other references be cut, including the words “pee-pee” and a character calling another “stupid”.

He accused the school of homophobia and “completely outdated hysteria”.

Ms Hobbs told the Hull Daily Mail: “The gay character was not a problem. It is the language and the tone of the scene in question that were problematic.

“The emotional wellbeing of our children is my only concern in this matter.

“As a parent and an educator I have made the decision that our four to 11-year-old children have the right to be protected from offensive language and to be able to learn about the impact of upsetting insults in the appropriate manner.”

She added that the school would “stage a performance which is acceptable for our school community”.