Fresh protests over gay relationship lessons at primary school in Birmingham

25 March 2019, 13:33 | Updated: 25 March 2019, 19:01

Parents at a primary school in Birmingham have held a fresh protest calling for lessons about gay relationships to be stopped.

Demonstrators gathered outside Anderton Park School calling for the headteacher to stand down and chanting "let kids be kids" while holding posters that read "my child my choice".

More than 80% of pupils at the school are Muslims. "Our children are innocent" one mother told Sky News. "We just don't want their minds to be corrupted".

"Being Muslim and being homosexual unfortunately doesn't coincide together" one of the protest organisers added.

Parents are holding daily demonstrations outside the school gates.

The headteacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, is calling on the education secretary to intervene as her school faces a backlash over the lessons.

She told Sky News has written to Damian Hinds to urge him to come and see what is happening.

She said: "You almost need to sit in a school like ours and listen to what's being said, the unpleasantness that it causes and the homophobic nature of some of the things that are said to understand how what is written in Whitehall affects people on the ground everywhere else.

"We've had so many emails from all over the country - headteachers in Croydon, Manchester - saying this is happening to me in my school and this should not be the case. So yes, I am calling on the secretary of state to come out very clearly on this."

The protests at Anderton Park follow widely publicised protests at Parkfield Community School which forced teachers to suspend the No Outsiders programme, which involves teaching children about homosexual relationships.

Leigh Trust has also now suspended teaching of the programme at four schools it runs in Birmingham. A spokesperson said: "Our Trust... values positive parental engagement and is keen to listen to their views.

"We have therefore decided to pause the programme so that we can have open discussions with the parents of all children in our schools, to ensure that we find a productive way forward for continuing to deliver equality and diversity."

No Outsiders is not taught at Anderton Park School.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson said: "We decided we wouldn't have a certain programme about any aspect of the Equality Act because we wanted to weave it in to usualise the language of equality for all aspects of schooling.

"It seems at the moment that some of the parents - and it's only a few of the parents - are worried that younger children, so maybe nursery and reception children, shouldn't be told that some people have two mummies.

"I'd say that some people do have two mummies, some people do have two daddies just as some people are black, white, Buddhist, female, male and that is what the Equality Act is about."

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson claimed the protests have sparked disagreement among parents - with those who did not wish to sign the petition facing hostility.

She added: "Parents who said 'no I don't agree with you' or 'no, I'm not taking one of your leaflets' were sworn at, they were told 'you'll go to hell if you don't take this leaflet or sign this piece of paper'. Incredibly unpleasant."

Like Parkfield Community School the vast majority of pupils at Anderton Park are Muslim.

Zahoor Ahmed, a father of pupils at the school, told Sky News he supports the protests.

"We are Muslim," he said, adding: "We don't want that kind of education."

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson recalls the so-called "Trojan Horse" scandal in Birmingham. In 2014, Ofsted found evidence of a campaign by some parents to impose a faith-based ideology in secular schools.

She likens what happened then to what is happening now, adding: "Some of the behaviours are very similar so some of the hand slapping on the table - 'I demand that you will not teach children it's alright to have two mums' - those kind of behaviours are very, very similar if not identical to what happened five, six, seven years ago in Trojan Horse times."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We want children to know that there are many types of people, and relationships - that's why we are making relationships education compulsory in all primary schools from 2020.

"This will ensure pupils are taught the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds - starting with family and friends - and how to treat each other with kindness, consideration and respect.

"We trust headteachers to make the decision as to what is and is not appropriate for their pupils to learn, and to engage with parents on this where they are required to do so."