Andrew Moffat on Birmingham anti-LGBTQ+ school protests, four years on: ‘Hardest time in my life’

Andrew Moffat of No Outsiders pictured at a school.

In 2019, Parkfield Community School in Birmingham became the centre of a nationwide debate on teaching children about LGBTQ+ lives. Four years on, the man at the heart of the controversy, teacher Andrew Moffat, is more determined than ever to defend inclusive education.

It was about 10 years ago that Moffat first faced criticism from parents for teaching children about LGBTQ+ issues.

As a gay teacher, he’d had been interested in LGBTQ+-inclusive education for some time. He had taken part in an academic research project on the topic, and continued teaching children in his own school about queer issues afterwards.

In 2013 – six years before his name made headlines – he faced uproar from parents who weren’t happy about what he was teaching. It came as a shock.

“I was quite arrogant at the time and my attitude was, ‘Well I’m right and people need to get over it. The law’s on my side and it’s tough’, which is completely the wrong attitude to have,” Andrew tells PinkNews.

“I really had to re-learn my attitude and step back and think, ‘how can I do this properly?’”

You may like to watch

It was a disorientating experience, but it ultimately led to Andrew dreaming up what has become known as No Outsiders. It’s an initiative about bringing LGBTQ+-inclusive education to children across the UK. 

“I am glad it happened because without that first backlash, No Outsiders wouldn’t be what it is today,” he says. 

Facing parents’ anger forced Andrew to reassess – he moved forward by trying to find common ground with those who were worried about what he was teaching.

“You don’t agree with me and I don’t agree with you, so what do we do? Do we just keep saying, ‘Well I’m right and you’re wrong’, or do we work together and find a way through?”

Andrew Moffat delivers LGBTQ+ inclusive education. He is pictured here wearing a white shirt and a tie.
Andrew Moffat delivers LGBTQ+ inclusive education. (Supplied)

Andrew Moffat almost threw in the towel after 2019 Birmingham school protests

No Outsiders has won acclaim ever since its launch. In 2017, Andrew was appointed MBE for services to equality in education, a testament to how influential the programme had been.

It’s still going strong today. Andrew is currently booked up for the next six months. He travels the country delivering workshops in schools. The demand, he says, is indicative of what’s happening with LGBTQ+ education on the ground. Most parents and teachers want their children to learn about these issues.

One of Andrew Moffat's No Outsiders posters.
One of Andrew Moffat’s No Outsiders posters. (Supplied)

But that doesn’t mean it’s all been plain sailing. In 2019, Andrew and his No Outsiders programme found themselves at the centre of the news cycle when people began protesting outside Parkfield. 

The backlash started with a parents’ petition which claimed Andrew’s teachings contradicted their Islamic faith. 

In the end, No Outsiders lessons were paused while teachers worked to re-engage with parents. Even so, the protests continued. Swarms of people stood outside the school each day, holding banners and signs demanding LGBTQ+-inclusive lessons be halted for good. Some of the people protesting didn’t even have children at Parkfield.

A court injunction was eventually issued to end the protests after months of disruption and media coverage.

The memory of those days remains painful for Andrew who believes the first backlash was his own doing – “I’d got this work wrong,” he says – but the 2019 protests were a different beast.

Parents, children and  protestors demonstrate against the 'No Outsiders' programme, which teaches children about LGBT rights, at Parkfield Community School on March 21, 2019.
Parents, children and protestors demonstrate against the ‘No Outsiders’ programme at Parkfield Community School. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

“I feel more frustrated about that one because I worked so hard to avoid this and to get it right, and I thought we had got it right, and for four years in my school I had parents onside and I had the community onside.

“It was working beautifully, then suddenly to see it hijacked by people who weren’t parents in the school, that was very, very scary and it was very difficult.

“Looking back, it was definitely the hardest time in my life and, in a way, it’s defined me. But at the same time, look where we are now. There was a time during those protests – they lasted about six months – when I could not see a way forward.” 

Andrew admits he thought about pulling the plug entirely on the programme, but, in the end, decided to persevere. He’s glad he did: it’s now bigger than ever.

“I have one day in class and four days a week doing training on No Outsiders. I’m booked up till November. That wouldn’t have happened without the protests.” 

‘I can’t control what’s happening in Florida, but I absolutely can talk about it’

Andrew Moffatt

The Parkfield Community School protests are in the past, but Andrew is keenly aware there are ongoing efforts to limit LGBTQ+-inclusive education in many parts of the world. Much has been made of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay, a piece of legislation that stops teachers talking about LGBTQ+ issues to all schoolchildren in the Sunshine state.

Republicans introduce measure to pass national 'Don't Say Gay' law
Disney employees protest over then chief executive Bob Chapek’s stance on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill last year. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“I can’t control what’s happening in Florida, but I absolutely can talk about it,” Andrew says. “I can make sure that children here know about it, so that we can make sure it doesn’t happen here.” 

In the meantime, he wants LGBTQ+ teachers to hold their heads up high.

“The world is changing from even five years ago, so be strong, be yourself, and be a good teacher.”