Defiant Birmingham school headteacher won’t stop LGBT lessons amid protests

A headteacher at a Birmingham primary school, who said it will not stop teaching on LGBT issues

The headteacher of one Birmingham primary school targeted by protesters has defiantly told PinkNews that the school “will not bow” to demands to stop its LGBT+ inclusive curriculum.

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson is headteacher of Anderton Park Primary School in Dennis Road, which has been targeted by dozens of predominantly Muslim residents from the Birmingham suburb of Alum Rock every day after school this week.

The protesters, who first staged demonstrations outside the city’s Parkfield Community School, are campaigning for primary schools in the area to stop teaching children about LGBT+ issues.

However, Hewitt-Clarkson said that staff would not stop teaching about equality at the school, which is listed as a “best practice” school by LGBT+ inclusive education charity Educate & Celebrate.

“Equality is a real strength of ours, the children talk about it all the time,” she told PinkNews.

“We want to usualise the language of equality.”

Hewitt-Clarkson added: “I am utterly passionate about all equality probably because I am a woman and, as an educator, I think if I don’t educate about these things then who will?”

Birmingham headteacher says “nothing” will change over teaching on LGBT+ issues

In particular, the protesters are calling for primary schools to stop teaching an LGBT+ inclusive programme called No Outsiders, developed by Parkfield’s assistant headteacher Andrew Moffat, which aims to educate children on all aspects of the Equality Act 2010.

But Anderton Park Primary School does not teach the No Outsiders programme. Instead, the school weaves teaching of the Equality Act—including LGBT+ people—into its vast curriculum.

“The leaflet [handed out by protestors] said ‘stop No Outsiders,’ but we don’t do No Outsiders,” explained Hewitt-Clarkson.

“I am utterly passionate about all equality probably because I am a woman and, as an educator, I think if I don’t educate about these things then who will?”

—Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, headteacher of Anderton Park Primary

Hewitt-Clarkson, who also released a video on the school’s website defending its LGBT+ content taught in relation to the Equality Act, continued: “Nothing has changed here. Nothing.

“We don’t have a programme. We don’t have lesson plans because we just weave it in all aspects.”

She said that she had met with around 40 parents in the last couple of weeks about the school’s curriculum.

The headteacher stressed that the school’s policy means staff do not teach about any sexual intercourse.

Staff at the school, she said, educate children about the different sexualities and genders protected by UK law, including equal marriage.

Hewitt-Clarkson explained that the school respects different religions, but its policy is to underline that equality is embedded in British law, particularly under the Equality Act 2010.

“Part of the Equality Act is race and religion, so [we] can’t discriminate against different religions, so we will say to children: ‘Two ladies can get married, two men can get married, but your mums and dads may have a different view on that because of their religious beliefs… we respect people’s religious beliefs but you need to know that this is British law,'” she said.

She added: “Equality is a fundamental British law. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a law.”

Hewitt-Clarkson went on to highlight section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, which details the “equality duty” of public authorities to “eliminate discrimination,” and “foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”

Hewitt-Clarkson explained: “That’s very clear that, as a school, you shouldn’t just firefight if something happens.”

“You shouldn’t just deal with a homophobic incident or a racist incident or a sexist incident.

“You should promote understanding. Not promote homosexuality, not promote heterosexuality either—just promote understanding of all aspects of the Equality Act.”

LGBT+ protests upsetting children and staff

The protests this week at Hewitt-Clarkson’s school, she said, have been unsettling for both pupils and staff.

“It’s just a joke and unpleasant, and very stressful for staff and the children—and many of the parents,” said the headteacher.

Hewitt-Clarkson said that the group had chanted intimidatory phrases such as “Hewitt-Clarkson is a liar,” and “Hewitt-Clarkson stand down.”

“They say it’s peaceful protest, but there’s lots of shouting, there are children crying, my staff are very upset by it, lots of parents are upset by it,” she said.

Hewitt-Clarkson confirmed she has been speaking to police over protesters.

She said that some parents and staff at the school have have called the police hotline 101 over the rallies to report that “they are feeling threatened, harassed, distressed.”

The headteacher also said she has received support from parents over the inclusive curriculum.

“So many parents have said, ‘God, we’re so glad you’re telling our kids this, your teachers, you’re doing our jobs for us,'” she added.

Protestors against LGBT lessons outside Anderton Park Primary school, Birmingham

Protestors outside Anderton Park Primary School. (Alum Rock Community Forum)

Although Anderton Park Primary School is committed to continuing its teaching on LGBT+ issues, Parkfield Community School has suspended the No Outsiders programme “until a resolution has been reached.”

This is despite an Ofsted report finding “no evidence” that Parkfield’s curriculum is not “age appropriate.”

Further complaints from parents have led to four more primary schools, all governed by Birmingham’s Leigh Trust, dropping the No Outsiders programme until at least the end of Ramadan in June.

Conservative Christians and ultra-Orthadox Jews have also taken part in the Birmingham demonstrations.

The protests come as the government works on plans make sex and relationships education compulsory in all English primary and secondary schools, which Hewitt-Clarkson noted had “fuelled the debate” around LGBT+ inclusivity.

Birmingham school protestors claim they are “not homophobic”

Demonstrations at Anderton will continue for the remainder of the week, said one of the protesters.

Shakeel Afsar, who has no children of his own but said he is uncle to a child at Parkfield, claimed that the group is not homophobic.

“We no not have nothing against the LGBT community, we’re not homophobic, we’re not against homosexuals,” he said.

“We have no issue in them practising what they wish to do.

“They have the gay parade, if they wish to practise on their same-sex relationships openly in the public… we say they should not be discriminated [against] because they should be allowed to do whatever they want.”

“We’ve got no issue against homosexual people, but don’t tell our children something that contradicts their religious beliefs.”

—Shakeel Afsar

Afsar continued: “But our argument is, our four-year-old children, who come from traditional Muslim backgrounds, why do they need to be taught… they’re being told about what a transsexual is?

“And what age to be homosexual, and it’s okay to be homosexual.”

He added: “It’s not okay being a Muslim and being homosexual. We don’t believe in homosexuality. We believe in respect for all human beings.

“Our children are being brought up to be told that it’s against their religion, same with the Catholic children, same with the Jewish children.

“We’ve got no issue against homosexual people, but don’t tell our children something that contradicts their religious beliefs.”