Birmingham parents reject LGBT education in school

image of  Muslim group showing their support for the LGBT community

7 May 2019 - In Birmingham, United Kingdom parents protest an inclusivity and acceptance education program for primary schools, No Outsiders . They believe it is infringing on their rights as parents while the program is actually abiding by current UK legislation.

No Outsiders overview

In 2014, Andrew Moffat, assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, UK, created the No Outsiders Program. The No Outsiders program is about diversity and inclusion in general, and also covers LGBT issues.
Late 2018, Muslim parents were informed about the inclusion of LGBT families in the program. Somehow, they became convinced that this presentation of LGBT families was against Islamic values. They started to pull children out of school.
Parkfield Community School, a primary school that has a very large Muslim identifying population, tried to establish a dialogue with parents on the inclusivity program, but was confronted with mass absences of Muslim children. Parents in opposition to the program claim that the curriculum does not take traditional, conservative Islamic beliefs into consideration. Many of the parents believe that acceptance and equality should be taught in the school setting, but do not want their children to be educated about the LGBT community at this age; they fear that children will start to see lesbian and gay relationships as normal (which is actually what the program aims for). Although many Muslim families oppose the No Outsiders program, there is still some support from the more progressive members of the Birmingham Muslim community.

What is No Outsiders ?

The program’s main goal is to encourage the acknowledgement and acceptance of religious, racial, family, and sexual differences. Education about LGBT issues and family structure is only one part of the complex curriculum. Students read books that focus on diversity and inclusion, participate in activities to further their understanding of equality, and discuss how attitudes of acceptance can be integrated into everyday life.

Government support of the program

No Outsiders is not a radical program. It is simply meant to teach children about the equality and acceptance measures covered by the Equality Act of 2010. The main goal of the legislation is to have an all-encompassing legislation focused on equality and inclusion. Previously, separate equality laws covered discrimination specifically on basis of race, sex, and disability. They did not tackle broader societal issues. The No Outsiders program content has been reviewed by the UK school inspectorate (Ofsted). After the difficulties in Birmingham, Ofsted has supported the school by saying that parents are not allowed to dictate the content of school programs, especially not when parent’s opinions contradict common values and legislation. In addition, the UK government has made it mandatory to teach about sexuality and LGBT issues.

Next steps

The No Outsiders protest has came to a halt after some compromises were made. The program is now available for both children and parents to take part in together. This allows for the parents to have conversations in a space that can be productive rather than fostering hostile environments. GALE is very supportive of creating spaces that allow voices and opinions to be shared, heard, and discussed with an open mind. We think that it is very important that parents maintain an active role in their children’s lives especially when many of the parents at Parkfield are unfamiliar with the topics being taught in the program.