School At Heart Of LGBT Equality Lessons Row To Close Early Over Safety Fears

23 May 2019, 18:34 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 18:50

Parents have been protesting outside the school for several weeks.
Parents have been protesting outside the school for several weeks. Picture: PA

A Birmingham primary school at the heart of parent protests against LGBT equality lessons will close early on Friday over safety fears due to a planned demonstration.

Anderton Park Primary will close at lunchtime following a decision taken by the school's headteacher and city council officials.

The move comes after weeks of demonstrations outside the gates of the school by parents who do not support the teaching of LGBT equality lessons.

Welcoming the "extremely difficult decision" to close early, Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said the first priority is the safety of pupils, families and staff, as protests had "escalated significantly" over the past week.

On Tuesday, West Midlands Police Chief Constable David Thompson called for a halt to protests, and for fresh talks between school leaders and some parents who have objected to elements of Anderton Park's relationship education.

The area's Police and Crime Commissioner supports the move, David Jamieson said: "In light of the escalating protests, I support the school's difficult decision to close early on Friday.

"These protests are having a major impact on children and staff and need to stop.

"Teachers should be free to get on with teaching a full curriculum, that highlights and explains Britain's full diversity, without fear of protests or threats."

The main organiser of the protests is Shakeel Afsar.

Mr Afsar's children do not go to the school, but his niece and nephew do.

The situation has been on-going at several schools in the region with the Anderton Park School seeing almost daily protests at the gates at home time, led by Shakeel Afsar.

Mr Afsar claimed to have the backing of nearly 300 parents who, like him, want the school to suspend LGBT books and discussions, which he says offend most of the school's mainly Muslim parents.

Mr Afsar has claimed demonstrations are continuing because the school is using "children as pawns" by teaching LGBT equality which are "over-emphasising a gay ethos".

He has rejected allegations the protests are homophobic, claiming the school should respect the protesters' "moral beliefs".

In early May, he was given a legal warning by the council not to interfere with the school's operation, but he has continued to attend demonstrations.

He has also questioned the legality of the council's notice.