Spielman: LGBT protests ‘setting terrible example for children’

The head of Ofsted has called on campaigners to halt protests outside the gates of schools that teach pupils about LGBT issues, claiming it “serves no one well to intimidate teachers”.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman used her speech at the Muslim Teachers’ Association’s  40th anniversary yesterday to say the protests make a “difficult situation worse, while setting a terrible example for the children”.

“It is children’s voices that always get lost when adults stop talking and start shouting,” she added.

Protests over relationships and sex education have been taking place around the country, with many parents and religious groups citing concern about the teaching of LGBT issues and homophobia in schools.

Parkfield Community School in Birmingham has been the target of several protests, with parents withdrawing their children from school over the teaching of its ‘No Outsiders’ programme. The school has now suspended the teaching of the programme until a resolution can be reached with the wider community.

Ofsted has given its support to the lessons at Parkfield, after ruling that the teaching was “age appropriate”.

Spielman said events at Parkfield were an example of “where dialogue is essential” in dealing with “issues and tensions when they arise”.

“I understand the strength of feeling in that community. But it serves no one well to intimidate teachers and start protesting outside the school gates.”

Instead, Spielman called for “calm discussions in order to find a sensible middle ground – one that means children are prepared for life in a diverse, modern, progressive country like ours, but it’s done in a sensitive and careful manner”.

Many schools already teach some form of LGBT education. In Manchester, template letters opposing sex and LGBT education have been handed out at school gates, while around 250 parents have joined a Whatsapp group opposing the lessons. The Manchester Evening News reported some of the messages sent are homophobic nature, including discussing the sexuality of teachers.

On Wednesday, MPs voted in favour of reforms to make relationships and health education compulsory in all schools, and sex education mandatory in all secondaries, from 2020. The reforms still need approval from the House of Lords.

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  1. Tom Burkard

    I don’t think anyone–not even the most devout Muslims–would object to the most stringent actions to prevent homophobic bullying, very much as they would support measures to prevent any bullying. However, when it comes to indoctrinating their children in a belief system which they find repugnant, we are totally intolerant of their beliefs, even though they have every legal right to hold them. The very legitimacy of state-controlled schools is called into question when it becomes highly partisan on controversial issues–ironically, this serves to exacerbate social differences rather than ameliorate them.

    • Teaching children about relationships in an age-appropriate way is not ‘indoctrinating…in a belief system’. Saying that all the protesters would condemn homophobic bullying is undermined by the local newspaper’s finding that some protesters’ messages were homophobic.
      The danger here is that schools will capitulate to demands from noisy protesters to stop teaching particular topics, to remove staff or introduce a narrow curriculum (remember Trojan Horse).

  2. Tom Burkard

    You can’t deny that this curriculum is exacerbating social divisions. It’s not for me to say whether the protesters were ‘homophobic’ or ‘noisy’, but prioritising your beliefs over theirs is both intolerant and divisive. If we’ve learned nothing else from history, peace demands that we respect the right of others to hold diverse beliefs and to tolerate others even when they find their beliefs repugnant.

    • Mark Watson

      Hard to remember when I read something so fundamentally misguided.
      Learning from history? I’ll try not to fall into the trap of mentioning Nazism, but should we have ‘respected’ the beliefs of the Bosnian Serbs and ‘tolerated’ their attempts at ethnic cleansing? How about the Hutus?
      Bringing it into the present, should we respect the beliefs of white supremacists that they are superior to muslims/jews/gays/liberals etc. and tolerate their attempts to sow discord and violence?
      And don’t get me started on the ridiculous “I don’t think anyone–not even the most devout Muslims–would object to the most stringent actions to prevent homophobic bullying”. It’s almost as though you are willfully ignoring the countless examples of extreme prejudice and hate from Muslim extremists against pretty much the same people as the white supremacists hate.
      Peace doesn’t demand we respect and tolerate bigots.
      It demands we stand up for equality and the rights of those who are being oppressed.

      • Totally agree Mr. Watson. A successful and peaceful society must be as clear about what it will not tolerate as it is about what it will. This will never please everyone. So be it.

      • Tom Burkard

        I’m afraid, Mr Watson, that you utterly fail to understand the difference between beliefs and actions–the former should never be illegal, even though the latter often must be.

        The hate directed against Muslims and Terfs is to me just as repugnant as that directed against any other minority. And it would seem to me that the hatred emanating from identitarian politics is a mirror image of that of the ‘white supremacists’. You are just as guilty as they are of tying to divide Britain into warring camps. You are just as convinced of your righteousness as the witchfinder-generals of the 17th century.

        • Mark Watson

          You do realise that in the history of Schools Week no-one has managed to get me, Janet and Bubs to agree on anything. The fact that your bizarre logic has managed this feat is a testament to its unacceptability, which is not given any credence by your use of ridiculous language such as “identitarian politics” or your hilarious call-backs to “witchfinder-generals”.

          It seems that many of us have ‘beliefs’ that it is important to teach children about how other people live – be that different religions, different ethnicities or different sexualities. This doesn’t mean indoctrinating anyone, it simply means pointing out that not everyone is like you, and you should approach other people with the same open mind as you want them to approach you.

          You said we should respect the right of others to hold diverse beliefs and to tolerate others even when we find their beliefs repugnant. I repeat my previous points – does this mean you respect and tolerate white supremacists, ISIL extremists etc.? Because I don’t, and I’m pretty sure most reasonable people are with me on that.

          I’m a straight white Catholic man from Gloucestershire, who thinks children should be taught that it’s just as acceptable to be gay, trans, Asian, African, Muslim or Jewish as it is to be like me. Don’t tell them any group has a monopoly on being right, and any group is wrong. Give them knowledge and expose them to different beliefs and experiences and let them make their own minds up.

        • Mark Watson

          By the way, having just educated myself on the word “Terfs”, I find it ironic that you profess to find hatred against them to be repugnant, and yet it seems that many people who that term would be used to describe consider it to be offensive and hate speech.

          Not sure I’d continue with that line of language if I was you.