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LGBT education row: Government issues advice to local authorities on handing protests

Parents and protestors demonstrate against  LGBT rights lessons outside a Birmingham school. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Parents and protestors demonstrate against LGBT rights lessons outside a Birmingham school. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

THE British government has issued advice on dealing with protests outside schools over LGBT equality lessons, the BBC reported on Wednesday (9).

According to the document produced by the Department for Education (DfE), local authorities could consider enforcement action if students are withdrawn from school because parents disagree with what is being taught.

With regard to demonstrations, the 21-page document suggests that teachers should consider liaising with police if protesters are found to be breaking the law.

However, teachers who have seen the document told the BBC that they continued to feel unsupported as they tackled a sensitive issue such as LGBT equality lessons.

The government has issued advice following continued protests outside multiple Birmingham schools against LGBT equality lessons.

In March, the Parkfield Community School suspended its No Outsiders equality programmes, which encourages children to accept differences in relationships, following angry protests.

Since April, Anderton Park Primary school in Birmingham has also seen regular protests, with campaigners said teaching young children about LGBT rights was not age appropriate.

However, the school’s headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has stood by it’s inclusive curriculum.

“Equality is a real strength of ours, the children talk about it all the time,” she told PinkNews. “We want to usualise the language of equality.”

Hewitt-Clarkson added: “I am utterly passionate about all equality probably because I am a woman and, as an educator, I think if I don’t educate about these things then who will?”

The headteacher has also repeatedly called on ministers to voice their support for equality teaching.

Last month, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said headteachers should be “able to teach about Britain as it is today” and that government will ensure support to schools ahead of the 2020 mandatory introduction of same-sex relationship education.

Commenting on protests outside school gates, Williamson said there was no place for demonstrations at school gates.

He said: “Firstly, we shouldn’t be seeing protests outside any schools.

“We want to make sure all pupils, parents and teachers are able to go to those schools freely without any form of intimidation.

“We will be there supporting and backing every single school – that’s what we have been doing.

“The purpose of it is we wanted to make sure every single school is able to teach about Britain as it is today – but also have the flexibility to ensure that it has an understanding of the communities which it operates in.”