Europe

British primary school teaching kids LGBTIQ+ rights remains defiant against protesters

Protestors hold their first demonstration since an injunction barring action immediately outside Anderton Park Primary School, in Moseley, Birmingham. Source: PA Wire

A trial is scheduled for the end of July after months of protests against a British primary school teaching students LGBTIQ+ rights led to a court order being put in place and a judge imposing a temporary exclusion zone.

Kids being taught about LGBTIQ+ rights at a British primary school are having their classes challenged by protesters against the progression curriculum.

The ongoing dispute comes in the midst of a push for all state-funded primary schools in England to adopt relationship education so students understand the importance of "equality and respect."

Classes being taught at Anderton Park Primary school in Birmingham are part of a curriculum teaching students about human rights protected against discrimination under the United Kingdom’s 2010 Equality Act.

School headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson told CNN she remains defiant against the dissent faced, saying schools must stand against discrimination. 

"In this school, it's our ethos of equality," she said.

“How has this amount of hatred [come to] the pavements outside of my school [from] a few people seeking to drive wedges between the school, its parents and community.”

Anderton Park head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson speaks to the media outside the Priory Law Courts in Birmingham.
Anderton Park head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson speaks to the media outside the Priory Law Courts in Birmingham.
PA Wire

But the use of children’s books helping teachers share concerns over LGBTIQ+ inclusion has stirred controversy around the primary school's teaching agenda. This includes a book about two male penguins adopting an egg and raising it together, according to CNN.

The row outside the school has seen protests gathering since March voicing their concerns about the curriculum for students aged between six and 11.

“Parents said to me, ‘these are crazy people out there and what is there to stop them from throwing a brick through a window?',” Ms Hewitt-Clarkson said.

At the primary school – with a strong cohort of Muslim students, some parents are voicing concern about the progressive curriculum being taught in classes.

They have argued it is inappropriate to teach students about same-sex relationships at this age. 

Protestors hold their first demonstration since an injunction barring action immediately outside Anderton Park Primary School, in Moseley, Birmingham.
Protestors hold their first demonstration since an injunction barring action immediately outside Anderton Park Primary School, in Moseley, Birmingham.
PA Wire

One of these parents spoke with CNN outside the school.

“Children should not be learning these things at such a young age,” she said.

Another, Shakeel Asfar, said their concerns were raised when a nephew brought home a book called “My Princess Boy.”

“We don’t allow our children who are girls to believe they are boys, or to believe they are girls,” he told CNN.

“We only believe in two genders.”

Protestors hold their first demonstration since an injunction was granted barring action immediately outside Anderton Park Primary School.
Protestors hold their first demonstration since an injunction was granted barring action immediately outside Anderton Park Primary School.
PA Wire

The protests have led to a court order being put in place, with a judge imposing a temporary exclusion zone until a trial deciding whether the protests can go ahead is held at the end of July.

Last month, Mr Justice Warby QC declared the demonstrations have the potential to be considered as harassment.

“I find it likely the claimant (Birmingham City Council) will establish at trial some of the protesting has gone beyond lawful limits and strayed into harassing, alarming or distressing conduct, through its persistence, timing and context," he said.



British Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said he “strongly encouraged” primary schools to teach their students about same-sex relationships.

New government guidance released
in February will make "Relationships Education" mandatory for all state-funded primary schools in England from September 2020.

It will also make sex and relationship classes made compulsory in all secondary schools.

“There is no place for protests outside school gates,” Mr Hinds said.

“They can frighten children, intimidate staff and parents and, in the worst cases, be hijacked by individuals with a vested interest and no links to the schools. It is time for these protests to stop.”

This week British Prime Minister Theresa May described the introduction of compulsory education for primary-age students as a "historic step forward." 

"I know that policy, in particular, has been controversial in some areas, but teaching all children about respect for difference is a core British value, something I and every government should always stand for," she wrote in an op-ed for PinkNews.

Currently, in England, schools are obliged to teach sex and relationships education from age 11 upwards, according to a government briefing paper on the matter. Under the new guidance, schools will still have flexibility within this approach, in relation to their faith.  

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson said the reality is only a small percentage of the primary school's curriculum focuses on the classes addressing these concerns. But she said schools must take on this responsibility.

“Schools cannot be part of any implied or tacit discrimination.” 

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