With just a few weeks remaining of the summer term, school leaders’ union NAHT has brought together some of the main figures involved in efforts to stop the anti-equality protests in Birmingham that have been making national headlines.
Primary school leaders in Birmingham and some other areas of the country have been the targets of campaigning, protests and abuse relating to their commitment to equality and diversity, and the teaching of LGBT+ inclusive relationships.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, said: “Without meaning to, the government has put school leaders in an extremely difficult position. They and their staff have had to endure threats against their careers and their personal safety. The protests need to end, and the best way to achieve that is for the government to be absolutely clear about what they expect schools to do.”
NAHT has produced a special briefing document for MPs, which it will publish on Tuesday 11 June at a parliamentary event.
Speakers at the event will include Emma Hardy MP, Nazir Afzal, former Crown Chief Prosecutor for the North West, Sara Khan, Lead Commissioner of the Commission for Countering Extremism and David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
They will be joined by Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head teacher of Anderton Park Primary School, and Andrew Moffat, deputy head teacher of Parkfield Primary School, who have both found themselves at the centre of the protests in Birmingham.
NAHT’s briefing document calls for clarity from the government on three key areas:
Relationships Education in primary schools must be inclusive of all protected characteristics and treat the different types of relationships in our society equally, reflecting their equal status under the law and so promoting tolerance and respect for diversity
Relationships Education in primary schools will include LGBT content as set out in the statutory guidance that has already been published
School leaders and their teams should receive the full support of the government and the full protection of the relevant authorities when delivering Relationships Education
Mr Whiteman continued: “When it comes to talking to pupils about the different kinds of families and relationships they may encounter in their lives, it’s a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. At present the DfE has said that ‘primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so’. We’d like the ‘if’ changed to ‘when’. We need to get this sorted by the end of term, as many schools will be adopting the new curriculum in September, and we don’t want children to experience any more protests.”
Other speakers at the event on Tuesday are Steve Edmonds, Director of Advice and Guidance at the National Governors Association, Simon Kidwell, head teacher at Hartford Manor Primary School in Northwich, Cheshire, Dean Taylor, president of NAHT Cymru and head teacher in Newport, and Rob Partington, head teacher of New Moston Primary School in Manchester and Stonewall training partner.
NAHT has been supporting the schools under protest, as well as working with the DfE and others to try to bring a swift resolution. Mr Whiteman said: “Whilst schools are required to involve parents and the community in what they’re planning to teach, that engagement does not provide parents or others with a veto on curriculum content. Equality is not an ‘optional extra’.
“Schools have a duty to eliminate discrimination. This is important because all children have a right to go home to whatever family they have without being forced to question whether their home life is any less loving or proper than their friends’ families, just because they look or seem different.
“The law that permits a person to follow their chosen religion or hold a belief without being discriminated against is the same law that protects someone else’s sexual orientation, or disability, or race. The law does not permit schools to pick which of these protected characteristics it educates pupils about.”
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