Words: Will Stroude
The Birmingham school at the centre of an escalating row over lessons on LGBT acceptance has insisted the programme will continue, despite reports it had been axed.
Parkfield Community School has generated national headlines in recent weeks after hundreds of parents began protesting against the LGBT aspect of the school's 'No Outsiders' diversity lessons.
The programme at the Muslim-majority primary school was started by assistant head teacher Andrew Moffat, with topics including age-appropriate discussion of race, religion, gender identity, age and disabilities and a focus of acceptance.
On Tuesday (5 March), bigoted parents who believe Mr Moffat and Parkfield are 'promoting' homosexuality to young children handed the school a petition signed by 350 people demanding the lessons be dropped.
The 'No Outsiders' programme was started in 2014 by Parkfield's assistant head teacher Andrew Moffat
The move coincided with the announcement that the 'No Outsiders' lessons would be stopping this half term, leading to reports that the classes had been axed in the face of mounting pressure from parents.
Parkfield has now insisted that the lessons were always planned to go on hiatus in the second half of term and that they will continue after the Easte break - though consultation will take place with parents in the meantime about how it will be implemented.
In response to a news story saying the classes had been stopped because of the protests, Parkfield tweeted: "We are concerned this headline is misleading. Parent meetings/ workshops are soon to begin and our no outsiders work continues."
Hazel Pulley, CEO of Excelsior Multi Academy Trust, which runs Parkfield confirmed the news to the Birmingham Mail, saying: "Yes ['No Outsiders' will continue] after Easter, as planned. The lessons are there for after Easter.
"Equalities education will continue."
Parents leading the anti-gay charge against 'No Outsiders' and Mr Moffat claim that their own faith is being underminded by teaching children that LGBT people are a normal part of society who must be respected.
Speaking to the BBC, Parkfield mother Fatima Shah claimed that 600 pupils the 750-strong were kept home by their parents last week in protests at the classes.
"We don't have an issue with them learning that yes, you will come across same-sex couples," she said. "What we have a problem with his [Mr Moffat's] promoting of homosexuality - and that is what he is doing.
"Telling children as young as four that 'It's ok to be gay'. It just doesn't go with our beliefs, our rights."
Mo Wiltshire, Director of Education at Stonewall, said: "It’s vital children learn about and celebrate diversity at all ages, and we work closely with schools, providing training and support to help them do this.
"Schools that strive to create inclusive environments do so because they know the benefits this has for the whole school community. Not only do children feel able to talk about who they are and who their families are, this approach also teaches children the invaluable lesson of acceptance, reducing the likelihood of bullying in the long run.
"We work closely with many faith schools and faith communities around the country to help them deliver LGBT-inclusive education to children and young people.
"We’re pleased Parkfield Community School has reaffirmed its commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all its pupils and we’re also pleased that it’s planning more conversations with parents and the wider community to resolve concerns, because the support of the community is essential in creating this inclusive approach.’