Andrew Moffat, assistant head at Parkfield school, Birmingham, in 2016 after launching No Outsiders
Photograph: David Sillitoe/for the Guardian
A group of more than 300 people stood outside Parkfield Community Primary School in Birmingham last Friday morning, protesting against lessons on homosexuality and gender. The parents, representing the school's predominantly Muslim population, kept their children out with them for the first hour of the day. Among the signs the group displayed some read: “Respect and Be Respected”, “Say No to Discrimination Against the Children” and “Education Not Indoctrination”. The following article was written when the issue first reached the media in late January.
Are British schools in breach of the law if they are failing to teach why, in some countries, homosexuality carries the death penalty? This is true, for example, of Qatar, the host nation for the next soccer World Cup finals in 2022. The criminalisation of gay relationships extends to more than 70 countries. We do not appear to be teaching children to reach a balanced understanding of why many people around the world see LGBT communities differently from a majority of us in the West.
Several major religions condemn homosexual activity as sinful. Should we not be teaching children, at the very least, to understand why, even if we find such views repellent?
This is the other side of the coin in the row engulfing Parkfield Community Primary School in Birmingham, which is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. In line with the Equality Act 2010 and the requirement to promote British Values, the school teaches about homophobia and LGBT rights.
The school’s ‘No Outsiders’ project has the best of intentions. Who could be against teaching young children to respect the point of view of people who may be ‘different’ from themselves?
‘It’s about teaching young children that we are different in reception and year one, that’s as far as this work goes. We’re just talking about being different and being friends,’ explained Andrew Moffat. He is the school’s assistant head teacher and the architect of this inclusivity initiative. Mr Moffat was made an MBE in 2017 for his services to education, so parents should know that he is, surely, one of the ‘good guys’.
Not all parents, though, are onside. One mum, Mariam Ahmed, has organised a petition of complaint. ‘Sorry, at this age it’s totally wrong,’ she said. ‘Children at this age don’t even know if they are coming or going, let alone knowing what sexual orientation they will become.’ Other parents appear to hold a similar point of view. ‘It’s good to teach children about respect and values but the sexual orientation aspect is against our principles,’ said Asma and Mohammed Jdaitawi.
Foisting adult angst and neuroses about gender and sexuality on to young children is, I believe, cruel, confusing and unnecessary. Moreover, it is a veritable Pandora’s box, for out of it jumps not only the LGBT lobby but, also, those who are in honest and sincere opposition. If we teach children that the LGBT communities, specifically, should be treated in a spirit of equality and respect, are we not demonising those who think differently?
Are the people of Qatar, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the UAE, Mauritania and parts of Somalia and Nigeria inherently wicked for retaining the death penalty for homosexual activity, even if it is rarely or never applied? And what about those many countries in Africa that outlaw homosexuality without making it a capital offence? Are they all wicked people, too?
Far better, I think, to teach children only that they should treat others as they would wish to be treated themselves – the ‘golden rule’. Keep the Pandora’s Box of political correctness firmly closed in order to protect children from the nasty consequences that are now destroying the ‘community’ at Parkfield Community Primary School.