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Humanists UK backs school facing religious protests over LGBT lessons

Update, 14 March: It now appears that the school has in fact suspended equality lessons after all. The school has said that it is now talking to the parents who were protesting the lessons and ‘Until a resolution has been reached, No Outsiders lessons will not be taught at Parkfield’.

Update, 09:00, 5 March: This article originally reflected a Guardian report that Parkfield School had suspended equality lessons in response to protests. However, the school has subsequently announced that equality lessons were not planned for the remainder of this term in any case. Our article has been amended accordingly.

A Birmingham school that has been praised for teaching LGBT equality lessons to its pupils is under significant pressure to drop the classes due to protests from religious parents, who are withdrawing their children from the school.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for inclusive relationships and sex education (RSE) in schools, including promoting tolerance and respect for LGBT people as part of RSE, says the pressure and withdrawals at Parkfield Community School are a ‘deeply worrying’ development.

The Guardian on Monday reported that the school, which is mostly attended by Muslim students, has been forced to stop teaching the classes until at least after Easter and will resume only when further consultation with parents is complete, although the school has since announced that lessons for the rest of this term were never planned. Its decision comes after the school received a petition with more than 400 signatures from predominantly Muslim parents who have since been withdrawing their children from the school over the LGBT lessons.

The school has been teaching the ‘No Outsiders’ programme formulated by assistant headteacher Andrew Moffat. The programme teaches students that ‘families look different’ and it also aims to tackle homophobia in schools. Mr Moffat, who was awarded an MBE for his work in equality education and is also in the running for a major international teaching award, has faced repeated and serious threats from several in the community.

Last week the Government announced its compulsory RSE curriculum that must be taught in all schools but the new law and guidance do not come into force until September 2019.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘We are deeply worried that the school might be forced to stop teaching these important classes due to mounting pressure from some Muslim parents. It is vital that all young people, some of whom will be LGBT themselves, grow up with age-appropriate information as to the facts of life and the virtue of tolerance. The work of this school should be seen as trailblazing and praiseworthy.

‘The UK Government has consistently said that schools will not be able to avoid teaching respect for LGBT people on the grounds of religion and we look to them now to take action. They should not give in to bullies who are opposing the values of respect, kindness, and tolerance for all in our society.’

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has consistently said that students must learn about same-sex relationships in schools regardless of religious beliefs.

Humanists UK will be following the school’s next steps and will be offering support to the school.

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

For more information on our work on relationships and sex education, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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