“Parents cannot opt out of knowing that I exist.” That was one of the comments as UNISON’s LGBT conference discussed inclusive education and it was met with loud applause.
Speaker James Anthony is from the West Midlands, where protests outside Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham, against the teaching of the No Outsiders scheme, have made national headlines.
The protests at Parkfield have been primarily among Muslim parents, who have been misled about the nature of the teaching.
No Outsiders “isn’t about sex education,” stressed Mr Anthony. “It’s storybooks showing that parents can happen to be the same gender – it’s not saying, ‘ohh, you should give this a try’.”
He went on to explain that “good work happened with the parents at Parkfield”. The protests have stopped there, but have moved to another school, where homophobic abuse outside the school has been witnessed.
Campaigns against inclusive education have supporters across religious groups, together with the likes of The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, which also opposes abortion as well as equal marriage and assisted suicide.
Pauline Bacon from the Eastern region says that No Outsiders is based on the Equality Act. Its creator, openly gay teacher Andrew Moffat, had been using it for almost a decade with no problems, until someone picked it up in local press.
“Children are being brought up to understand that they live in a diverse society and have to abide by that – irrespective of religion,” she said. It’s “age appropriate – it isn’t ‘sex education’.
“It’s all about the reality that they will encounter LGBT+ people in their lives.”
Ms Bacon noted that it was also important to point out that such protests affect UNISON members who work in schools, in the case of teaching assistants, helping to deliver this education.
Lynn Sheridan from the Scottish region told delegates about how the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign in Scotland “went to every school” and “included faith bodies and everyone eventually came together to agree on inclusive education.”
She noted that getting broad agreement was one thing, but then “there have to be the resources behind that.”
Another speaker observed that attitudes start being set when we’re children, making it clear just why this sort of education vital.
A speaker from the Northern region told conference how he was bulled at primary school as a ‘mummy’s boy’ and for being “gay”. He was chased, spat on and beaten. “I didn’t understand what being ‘gay’ meant”. His parents went to the school and complained, but it “made things worse”.
At secondary school, it got no better – and led to two suicide attempts. Sixteen years after Section 28 was removed from the statute book, the issue is still with us.
He also pointed that anti-inclusive education protests affect Muslim LGBT+ people. “Support No Outsiders and push for change,” he said.
Jennie Antonio for the national committee cites how the general election has already been affected by the worsening levels of public discourse, promoted by an enabled far right and by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Dolores Craig from Leicester police branch pointed out that No Outsiders doesn’t suggest LGBT+ relationships are more important than other relationships, but it does teach that they are no less valid.
Want to support to all the teachers and school staff who are carrying out this great work.
Delegates agreed a range of actions, including calling on the national LGBT+ committee to:
- show solidarity with and work alongside others to defend LGBT+ education if it comes under attack;
- raise awareness of LGBT+ relationships and families in the workplace;
- actively promote positive attitudes toward LGBT+ people in the workplace.
A conference bucket collection raised over £400 for the No Outsiders charity.