By Gavin Mackintosh-
A Birmingham school has been forced to drop curriculum that addresses LGBT groups until a resolution with objecting parents is reached.
Parkfield Community School has abandoned its No Outsiders project which teaches tolerance of diverse groups that covers different races, genders and sexual orientation. The Birmingham school had previously decided against the views of protesting parents, and were scheduled to continue with its plans to educate pupils about LGBT issues after the Easter holidays, but caved into pressure to discontinue its plans.
The controversial lessons sparked off weekly protests outside its gates, with mothers and fathers objecting to the teaching of the No Outsiders project. A majority of the dissenting parents were muslims, who strongly oppose to their children being taught to accept homosexual practices, which is against their religious beliefs.
On Tuesday, Ofsted published a report by inspectors which concluded that the lessons were age-appropriate, and that there was no evidence that the education and equalities curriculum “focuses disproportionately on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues and that this work is not taught in an age-appropriate manner.”
Headteacher David Williams called “great news” for the school.Inspectors said “a very small, but vocal, minority of parents are not clear about the school’s vision, policies and practice”, and that teachers should work on “further engagement” with mothers and fathers.
However, after talks between parents, education chiefs and the academy trust which runs Parkfield took place later that day, it was concluded that the long term agenda was suspended.The school said:
“Nothing is more important than ensuring our children’s education continues uninterrupted.
“Both parents and the trust held constructive discussions with the Regional Schools Commissioner, and, as a result of these discussions, we are eager to continue to work together with parents over the coming days and weeks to find a solution that will support the children in our school to continue their education in a harmonious environment.
“Until a resolution has been reached, No Outsiders lessons will not be taught at Parkfield and we hope that children will not be removed from school to take part in protests.”
Pupils are taught about the positive values of diversity, tolerance and acceptance, in a broad curriculum encompassing LGBT rights, same-sex relationships, gender identity, race, religion and colour.
But the lessons sparked off weekly protests outside its gates, with mothers and fathers objecting to the teaching of the No Outsiders project.
Parkfield Parents’ Community Group, which has organised protests, said members had a positive meeting with the Department for Education (DfE) to discuss serious concerns with the programme.
Welcoming the suspension, the group called off its protest for this week and said it would keep the option of future rallies “under review”.
The group said in a statement: “We made our position clear, that the No Outsiders programme cannot continue to be taught at Parkfield School and that a new programme needs be negotiated, with which parents are happy and meets the legal requirements of the Equality Act 2010.
“The school have agreed that ‘until a resolution has been reached’ No Outsiders lessons will not be taught.
“In view of this development, we have decided to postpone the protest for Thursday 14th March.
“We will await further developments early next week when we expect detailed proposals to be tabled.
“We will then review our actions with respect to protests and schoolwide withdrawal of children.
“We have advised and notified parents that the protest scheduled for Thursday 14th March is not taking place and that we are keeping future protests under review in view of developments.
“We welcome these developments and reiterate that the school needs to work with parents in a spirit of partnership and co-operation and not against them in educating their children.”
At the school gates on Thursday, a handful of parents who were present were also supportive.
One, who declined to be named, said: “Of course we aren’t against equality – the problem was too much emphasis on the LGBT side.
“The DfE listened to us. We’ll see what happens now.”