Police had to be called to a parents’ meeting in a Birmingham primary school after angry parents confronted the head teacher about a program designed to tackle homophobic bullying. The routine meeting attracted five times the normal audience, as parents attended explicitly to confront head teacher Jamie Barry. As parents hurled abuse, police advised Mr Barry to exit the premises.
The parents all have children at Welford Primary, one of 21 schools to be inspected in Birmingham following the uncovering of the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot in which hard line Muslims attempted to take over a number of schools, the Daily Mail has reported.
Although there is a large Muslim intake, the children at the school come from a mixture of backgrounds. 44 percent of pupils are from Pakistani families, and 22 percent from Afro-Caribbean families. Although the school was given a clean bill of health during the inspection, inspectors reported that a number of pupils thought it was wrong to be gay.
“We were aware that they might do, because culturally, within the community we serve, we know those views are heard,” said Mr Barry. “But it made us think that as a school we need to do a little more in terms of teaching children about diversity and relationships.”
The school therefore introduced a number of teaching materials from the Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools (Chips) program. The program uses well known stories rewritten by teacher Andrew Moffat to teach children that LGBT people exist, and to accept them and celebrate their contribution to diversity, according to the Guardian. As the stories are designed to be used in literacy classes rather than sex education classes, parents are unable to withdraw their children from the relevant lessons. The program is carried by 35 other Birmingham schools.
“While we respect everyone’s right to a personal view, same-sex marriage is legal and some same-sex couples adopt or foster. Our children will come into contact with these people and we don’t want it to be a shock to the system,” Mr Barry.
But a number of parents were unhappy and sought help from Safe at School, a campaign run by anti-abortion group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Antonia Tully, who co-ordinates the Safe At School program sent an email to the parents who contacted her which listed 13 recommended questions to ask at the meeting, and urged the parents to forward the email on to others so that more voices could be heard.
The questions and comments were designed to overlap, as she said the head teacher “needs to hear the same concerns.” They included:
– How many lesbian and gay children are there in the school?
– How many incidents of homophobic bullying take place every week?
– We send our children to school to learn to read and write – that’s the school’s job. It’s our job as parents to teach them anything they need to know about homosexuality.
– Do you think… parents are too stupid to teach their own children about respect for everyone?
– We don’t want our children having lessons which twist harmless story books into a story about homophobia. That’s indoctrination, not education.
– Do you think parents are useless at teaching their children that it’s wrong to bully anyone, not only those children who might be gay?
What was expected to be a routine meeting of the twice termly parents’ forum, at which topics such as home-school diaries usually attracted around 20 parents, turned into a heated event when 100 parents turned up. A small group of about 10 parents were particularly vocal, and, according to Barry, became “very personal and very aggressive”.
Cllr Brigid Jones, Birmingham city council’s cabinet member for children and family services has said that homophobic abuse was directed at the head teacher, describing the events as a “dark and horrible episode”. Eventually staff also present at the meeting became concerned and called the police, who advised Barry to leave the meeting and wait in his office.
A month on from the meeting, which took place on the 3rd October, he is unwilling to talk at length about the meeting insisting that he wants the school to move on, although he did refute the claim that he was “escorted from the premises for his own safety”.
Commenting on the incident, Mrs Tully confirmed that she had been made aware of the events at the meeting by concerned parents. “They told me that someone phoned the police which was a very inflammatory reaction,” she said. “They said nothing that happened at the meeting warranted any police involvement.”
Now Rob Kelsall, the National Association of Headteachers’ senior regional officer, is calling on the government to back the Chips program and give its “full support” to head teachers who implement it. “It’s about coming behind the head and the school to say ‘this is a fundamental value that there’s no negotiation on’,” he says.
“We’re calling for more clarity on what is described all too often as ‘fundamental British values’. It’s about sending a message to the community that we teach respect of law and tolerance, and Chips is an important part of that.”
Earlier this month Breitbart London reported that some faith schools were facing closure thanks to inspectors’ willingness to radically downgrade them for not actively promoting acceptance of homosexuality.
The Christian Institute, which is supporting the schools, has accused the government of breaking the Equalities Act by forcing faith schools to change their curricula. Simon Calvert, the Christian Institute’s Deputy Director said “At the beginning of the summer we warned that if the Government brought in these regulations then they would be enforcing political correctness in schools. The DfE said it would never happen, but since then we’ve been finding case after case where that’s exactly what’s going on.”
Education minister Nicky Morgan said “All schools of whatever type have a duty to protect young people and to ensure they leave school fully prepared for life in modern Britain.”