Ministers ‘silent’ over LGBT school demos

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Image caption “If I was gay and watching what was happening in Birmingham, I would say it was discriminatory,” said Dame Louise Casey

A former government official has accused ministers of “radio silence” over protests near a school against its teaching of LGBT relationships.

Dame Louise Casey said they had failed to act on the issue at Birmingham’s Anderton Park Primary because it was in the “all-too-difficult box”.

They “needed to be much clearer about upholding the laws of this country and the values that we hold”, she told Radio 4’s Today programme.

Campaigners resumed protests last week.

They are calling for an end to the use of story books featuring same sex couples, which have been used as part of a programme teaching about equality.

Image caption Protesters descended on primary schools in Birmingham

But Dame Louise, the author of a landmark report on integration, told the BBC ministers should have stepped in.

“They’ve just been too silent on this,” she said.

“Laws have been put through Parliament that protect religious freedoms and protect the rights of people who are gay and want to get married.

“That has to be promoted – that we respect both but that both also have to respect each other,” she said.

‘What I hear is homophobia’

Protests have involved parents and campaigners chanting “our children, our choice” just metres from the school gates on the border of Moseley and Sparkbrook.

They have held banners saying things including “say no to sexualisation of children” and “let kids be kids”.


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Media captionLGBT classes protester: I am not homophobic

Most of the protesters have been of Muslim faith and many of those the BBC has spoken to have insisted they believe homosexuality to be a sin.

“If I was gay and watching what was happening in Birmingham, I would say it was discriminatory,” said Dame Louise.

“When you see it on the television, what I hear is homophobia and homophobia is not a value I want any child in this country to grow up and learn.”

In 2016, Dame Louise wrote a hard-hitting report for the government in which she called on particular communities to integrate more into British society.

Some accused her of discriminating against Muslims because she focused on them. She has always denied the allegation.


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Media captionLouise Casey: Integration ‘not a two-way street’

Earlier this year, a high court injunction was granted barring action immediately outside Anderton Park.

On a weekly basis during term time, protesters have been gathering outside the exclusion zone on an area of grass about 100m from the school.

A trial in October will rule whether they can resume directly outside the school.

From September 2020, it will be compulsory to teach relationships education for primary-age pupils and relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary-age pupils.

The government has said it wanted primary schools to teach children about same sex relationships but, as with the rest of the curriculum, it would be up to them to decide when it was “age appropriate”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said earlier this month the government would be “supporting and backing every single school” as they prepared for the roll-out of a mandatory LGBT-inclusive curriculum.

Dame Louise also said if ministers integrated more with Britain’s diverse population, they would improve their own understanding of the issues at hand.

“White posh people that go to Eton need to meet somebody that doesn’t look like them or sound like them before they’re in charge of the country,” she said.

BBC Image copyright PA
Image caption Protests have been held outside Anderton Park School for several weeks

The former senior civil servant went on to say the protests stemmed from a lack of integration with some deprived communities struggling to mix with other ethnic groups.

She said schools having majority Muslim populations sometimes meant their children were not being exposed to the real make-up of the country they were living in.


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Media captionGay Muslims say the No Outsiders books would have helped their mental health growing up

She said: “We’re not fitting in those kids for what the world is and actually this is a multi-cultural, multi-faith country that we’re very proud of but it shows you a picture of some families in some of these areas being very closed.”

‘Most absurd’

Rosina Afsar, whose son goes to Anderton Park School, has been involved with the protests from the outset.

She accused Dame Louise Casey of discriminating against people of Muslim faith.

“Saying that we don’t integrate is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard,” she said.

“It’s absolutely nonsense. We have so many friends in interracial relationships so how can we not be mixing?

“Part of British values is also to allow people to live according to their faiths. End of.”

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