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Birmingham LGBT row: The view from the school gates Birmingham LGBT row: The view from the school gates
(about 8 hours later)
Protesters have gathered outside a Birmingham school for eight weeks in a dispute over teaching children about LGBT relationships. As the row continues, the views of those at the gates of Anderton Park Primary are varied and passionate.Protesters have gathered outside a Birmingham school for eight weeks in a dispute over teaching children about LGBT relationships. As the row continues, the views of those at the gates of Anderton Park Primary are varied and passionate.
At the heart of a terraced street sits a striking, red-brick building with a spire. A sign on its fence reads "relationships, aspirations, sparkle", encapsulating the ethos of a school at the centre of the storm.At the heart of a terraced street sits a striking, red-brick building with a spire. A sign on its fence reads "relationships, aspirations, sparkle", encapsulating the ethos of a school at the centre of the storm.
It feels like a normal day, except for the police car and three officers that have pulled up outside Anderton Park Primary to help manage the protests that have rumbled on outside the school since March.It feels like a normal day, except for the police car and three officers that have pulled up outside Anderton Park Primary to help manage the protests that have rumbled on outside the school since March.
The problems flared when parents and campaigners rallied against pupils being taught about same-sex relationships and transgender issues. In recent weeks, children have been removed from classes and teachers have been threatened.The problems flared when parents and campaigners rallied against pupils being taught about same-sex relationships and transgender issues. In recent weeks, children have been removed from classes and teachers have been threatened.
The situation has divided the Anderton Park community, many of whom are from a Muslim background.The situation has divided the Anderton Park community, many of whom are from a Muslim background.
When approached by the BBC to talk about their views, most parents did not want to talk about it. Of those that did, the overwhelming majority were reluctant to be named or photographed.When approached by the BBC to talk about their views, most parents did not want to talk about it. Of those that did, the overwhelming majority were reluctant to be named or photographed.
Rawasia Bibi has two daughters at the school, aged eight and 11, who she said "stand with me at the protest".Rawasia Bibi has two daughters at the school, aged eight and 11, who she said "stand with me at the protest".
She said the protesters are not homophobic - she "lives in a neighbourhood where we've got transgender and gays and it doesn't matter" - but that she disagreed with teaching young children about LGBT issues.She said the protesters are not homophobic - she "lives in a neighbourhood where we've got transgender and gays and it doesn't matter" - but that she disagreed with teaching young children about LGBT issues.
"We don't agree with what [head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson] is teaching our children," she added."We don't agree with what [head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson] is teaching our children," she added.
"It's nothing to do with LGBT, they can do what they want with their lives. We are saying teach this in secondary schools, not primary schools.""It's nothing to do with LGBT, they can do what they want with their lives. We are saying teach this in secondary schools, not primary schools."
Fellow parent Safina Bibi agreed and said her daughter had been affected by the protests.Fellow parent Safina Bibi agreed and said her daughter had been affected by the protests.
"Sometimes she gets upset - she asks why the teachers and parents are fighting."Sometimes she gets upset - she asks why the teachers and parents are fighting.
"When it comes to sex and things, why are they teaching them that? Why can't they just teach them what they need to be taught?""When it comes to sex and things, why are they teaching them that? Why can't they just teach them what they need to be taught?"
The LGBT teaching row explainedThe LGBT teaching row explained
The protests spread to Anderton Park from Parkfield Community School in Alum Rock, where parents raised a petition in January claiming some of the teaching contradicted Islam.The protests spread to Anderton Park from Parkfield Community School in Alum Rock, where parents raised a petition in January claiming some of the teaching contradicted Islam.
The "No Outsiders" scheme, created by one of its teachers Andrew Moffatt, had been running at the school since 2014.The "No Outsiders" scheme, created by one of its teachers Andrew Moffatt, had been running at the school since 2014.
It was formed to educate children about the Equality Act, British values, and diversity, using storybooks to teach children about LGBT relationships, race, religion, adoption and disability.It was formed to educate children about the Equality Act, British values, and diversity, using storybooks to teach children about LGBT relationships, race, religion, adoption and disability.
Anderton Park had not been teaching No Outsiders specifically, but did teach children about equality and relationships.Anderton Park had not been teaching No Outsiders specifically, but did teach children about equality and relationships.
The demonstrations at its gates have been no less heated than those at Alum Rock and have even involved threats to teachers.The demonstrations at its gates have been no less heated than those at Alum Rock and have even involved threats to teachers.
"I don't think anyone should be bullied about anything that's prevalent in our society," said mother of twins, Dionne Reid."I don't think anyone should be bullied about anything that's prevalent in our society," said mother of twins, Dionne Reid.
"My kids get really upset about it, they love Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson and they say everyone's got rights. They don't understand the protests."My kids get really upset about it, they love Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson and they say everyone's got rights. They don't understand the protests.
"What I don't like is [the demonstrators] force it on to you.""What I don't like is [the demonstrators] force it on to you."
Dropping off his son, Faizal Kareem said he was "neutral" when it came to the protests, but did not agree with what was being taught.Dropping off his son, Faizal Kareem said he was "neutral" when it came to the protests, but did not agree with what was being taught.
"To be honest, this LGBT, I'm against it. When they grow up the will learn [these] things anyway. "To be honest, this LGBT, I'm against it. When they grow up they will learn [these] things anyway.
"I think this isn't the time, we have plenty more issues to discuss with kids like robbery, crime, drugs; really important issues.""I think this isn't the time, we have plenty more issues to discuss with kids like robbery, crime, drugs; really important issues."
He wants parents and teachers to "sit and talk about things".He wants parents and teachers to "sit and talk about things".
"They say in Alum Rock the protests were successful and now [No Outsiders] has stopped there, that's what they are hoping here.""They say in Alum Rock the protests were successful and now [No Outsiders] has stopped there, that's what they are hoping here."
One mother, who did not want to be named, said the content should be taught so children don't grow up to feel "alien" in the world.One mother, who did not want to be named, said the content should be taught so children don't grow up to feel "alien" in the world.
"What they are teaching we don't believe, but I think there should be more [focus] on the children."What they are teaching we don't believe, but I think there should be more [focus] on the children.
"In the world today they can see [different beliefs] in the media and if they have this information from school they will know what the world is like and won't feel so alien."In the world today they can see [different beliefs] in the media and if they have this information from school they will know what the world is like and won't feel so alien.
"Personally, [protests] are not the peaceful way of doing things.""Personally, [protests] are not the peaceful way of doing things."
Within half an hour, the school rush dies down. A police car circles the street intermittently.Within half an hour, the school rush dies down. A police car circles the street intermittently.
A few parents chat on the corner - it's barely worth them leaving; they will have to return at midday to pick up their children because the school is closing early due to concerns about a planned protest.A few parents chat on the corner - it's barely worth them leaving; they will have to return at midday to pick up their children because the school is closing early due to concerns about a planned protest.
Jumshad Khan lives opposite the school. A former pupil himself, he now has three children at the school aged four, five and nine. He thinks children should "be aware" of LGBT issues but parents should talk about society and religion "at home".Jumshad Khan lives opposite the school. A former pupil himself, he now has three children at the school aged four, five and nine. He thinks children should "be aware" of LGBT issues but parents should talk about society and religion "at home".
"I went to this school and we were taught hymns. I'm Muslim, not Christian, [and] my parents didn't have a problem with me being taught that."I went to this school and we were taught hymns. I'm Muslim, not Christian, [and] my parents didn't have a problem with me being taught that.
"It's a school that caters for the community, it's wrong that it's at the stage where the majority of the community are against the institution that's supposed to be educating our children."It's a school that caters for the community, it's wrong that it's at the stage where the majority of the community are against the institution that's supposed to be educating our children.
"The issue here is the children, they are the ones that are getting disrupted.""The issue here is the children, they are the ones that are getting disrupted."
As noon approaches, parents arrive to collect their children. The street briefly becomes busy again with families, a handful of protesters, and people carrying rainbow flags, before emptying again as the school shuts its doors.As noon approaches, parents arrive to collect their children. The street briefly becomes busy again with families, a handful of protesters, and people carrying rainbow flags, before emptying again as the school shuts its doors.
Rukhsana Hussain is a parent governor at the school. Herself a former pupil, she is one of few voices to speak passionately against the protesters.Rukhsana Hussain is a parent governor at the school. Herself a former pupil, she is one of few voices to speak passionately against the protesters.
"I do not begrudge them for what they are saying," she said. "However, look at what [they] are doing outside a primary school."I do not begrudge them for what they are saying," she said. "However, look at what [they] are doing outside a primary school.
"Imagine going to school for eight weeks and having to see people shouting and chanting and humiliating the head teacher."Imagine going to school for eight weeks and having to see people shouting and chanting and humiliating the head teacher.
"How is this going to affect our children psychologically?""How is this going to affect our children psychologically?"
At 14:20, the road fills again - the largest protest outside Anderton Park Primary since the conflict began. About 200 people gather in the narrow street, some sitting on walls, others watching from front gardens.At 14:20, the road fills again - the largest protest outside Anderton Park Primary since the conflict began. About 200 people gather in the narrow street, some sitting on walls, others watching from front gardens.
Some chant "our children, our choice", "let kids be kids" and "head teacher, step down". Parents wave banners, including one that reads "don't class us as homophobic".Some chant "our children, our choice", "let kids be kids" and "head teacher, step down". Parents wave banners, including one that reads "don't class us as homophobic".
Organiser Shakeel Afsar said the afternoon's protest was the "final step" before a petition would be handed in calling for Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson to step down as the school's head.Organiser Shakeel Afsar said the afternoon's protest was the "final step" before a petition would be handed in calling for Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson to step down as the school's head.
He said he hoped mediation could bring "transparent, sensible talks".He said he hoped mediation could bring "transparent, sensible talks".
"Sit us down, sit the LGBT community down, and let's thrash this out like adults and stop being so intolerant to the community that have different views to yourself.""Sit us down, sit the LGBT community down, and let's thrash this out like adults and stop being so intolerant to the community that have different views to yourself."
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