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Attitude Pride Awards: The gay teacher who sparked protests for making the classroom a more accepting place

Andrew Moffat started the 'No Outsiders' lessons which have sparked protests from parents at Birmingham's Parkfield Community School and across the UK.

2019-07-05

"There was no question of being gay: you could not be gay", says Andrew Moffat, recalling his schooldays in 1980s Birmingham. "I don't want any child to go through that, those years of self-hatred.

"And how do you stop it? By teaching children that there are different people, different families, and that's fantastic."

To start to realise that goal of classrooms free from prejudice, Andrew - no assistant head of Parkfield Community School in Birmginah, created 'No Outsiders', a lesson programme designed to teach pupils about acceptance and the characteristics protected under the Equality Act - race, gender, disability and sexuality.

A hit with pupils and teachers alike - as well as much as Ofsted who highlighted 'No Outsiders' as a key strength of the school - the programme had been piloted in around 60 schools across England and Wales since 2015.

It was successfully taught by Andrew himself at Parkfield until the start of this year when, parents unhappy the simple idea of acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people in the classroom began campaigning against 'No Outsiders' in a series of increasingly nasty - and increasingly personal - protests.

 

"There was a petition," Andrew recalls of the first days of the backlash. "People were saying I was sexualising children, making children gay and lesbian."

By the time protests had spread to other schools in Brimingham and across England teaching 'No Outsiders' or other similarly inclusive programmes, generating national headlines in the process, this popular teacher had unwittingly found himself at the centre of one of the fiercest equality battles the UK had seen in years. 

"I think it all comes down to this this fundamental misconception that you choose to be gay," Andrew says of the bigoted ire being directed at 'No Outsiders'.

"You don't. Protestors have said that we're confusing children by doing this, but that's not my experience at all. And let's not forget that some children in our schools have got two moms or two dads. It's really important that they know their family is welcome and accepted."

Despite the hostility, Andrew has refused to be cowed by pressure from a prejudiced few, proudly leading the Birmginham Pride parade in May alongside leading queer Islamic figures - an image that served as a rousing reminder that it is our similarities, not our differences, which define us as a society.

"What it shows is how ideas can change and how society can change, and that gives me huge hope for my own situation, my own school, and the future of this work," he smiles.

"Change doesn't come easily. It might take a couple of years or ten years, but we will get there. We've got such a long way to go, but we've come such a long way already."

Listen to Andrew's story below: