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Parkfield school boss: Government put staff under 'extreme pressure' to drop LGBTQ-inclusive lessons

Hazel Pulley has slammed the Department for Education's response to the homophobic protests outside the school gates.

2019-07-26

The boss of Parkfield Community School in Birmingham has claimed the government put staff under "extreme pressure" to axe LGBTQ-inclusive lessons currently being protested by parents and local community groups.

Hazel Pulley, chief executive of Excelsior, which runs the school, told the BBC that the Department of Education (DfE) left the under-fire school in "isolation" as the backlash to 'No Outsiders' programme started by assistant head teacher Andrew Moffat grew.

"I have felt sadly rather isolated. I felt that there are few there supporting us. We have had support, our union have been supportive, but to begin with we got very little support from anybody," Ms Pulley said.

"The isolation grew as the months moved on. At first I was looking for that overt support from DfE [Department for Education], from other agencies, to come forward and say what we're doing is right, when actually I felt the support was going elsewhere.

The 'No Outsiders' programme, which teaches children about the characteristics protected under the Equality Act - race, gender, sexuality, religion and disability - in an age-appropriate manner, is currently taught in around 60 schools in England and Wales.

Parkfield made the decision to suspend the programme in March following weeks of protests, including the mass removal of children from lessons by parents. The programme was reinstated earlier this month, leading to the resumption of protests.

After being read a letter by Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb claiming that at "no point" did DfE staff put pressure on Parkfield to stop of suspend 'No Outsiders', Ms Pulley replied: "That is untrue.

"We experienced extreme pressure to stop [the programme], but we agreed [to] suspend the programme to stop 'No Outsiders'.

 

"And we feel it was only with one aim: to keep the protests out of the papers and to stop the protests."

Ms Pulley called on the UK's new prime minister Boris Johnson to intervene to bring the ongoing row to an end.

"I don't think this had happened in schools in our country before, where parents would stand outside a school and really using megaphones and keep children out," she said.

"It was new they wanted it out of the press but for us it was happening to our school, a school where was going wrong - we were doing nothing wrong. Why did we have to stop?

"I'm calling on Mr Johnson to really get this sorted as soon as we can. I'll come and meet with him, whatever way we can do, because if we don't get this sorted now it's only going to grow and community cohesion will become more of a challenge.

"It's only going to get worse."

Parkfield assitant head teacher and 'No Outsiders' founder Andrew Moffat was recently honoured with an Attitude Pride Award for his work to make the classroom a mote inclusive place in the face of personal vitriol - you can hear his story in his own words below: