Parkfield Neighborhood College is an unprepossessing redbrick major reverse a breaker’s yard in a run-down a part of Birmingham.
In bygone years, this was blue-collar ‘Peaky Blinders’ territory; now 99 per cent of its pupils are from Muslim households.
Mentored by academics rated as ‘excellent’ by Ofsted, the colleges regulator, and guided by ‘glorious’ leaders, they’re high-achieving kids who outperform these at many different state colleges.
At 9am on a weekday morning, these vibrant, aspirational girls and boys should have been be submitting into morning meeting.
Parkfield Neighborhood College is an unprepossessing redbrick major reverse a breaker’s yard in a run-down a part of Birmingham. Dad and mom and pupils are pictured staging a protest exterior Parkfield
As the primary bell sounded a couple of days in the past, nevertheless, I watched them be a part of their moms and dads in an offended, extremely orchestrated demonstration exterior the gates.
They waved placards, shouted slogans and hurled insults at Andrew Moffat, their as soon as widespread and enormously revered assistant headmaster, who has been changed into a hate-figure by some mother and father.
Regrettably, these kids, aged between 4 and 11, have turn out to be pawns in an ideological battle between their conservative non secular mother and father and the liberal-minded Mr Moffat, backed by his fellow workers members.
The outrage centres on a progressive academic programme known as ‘No Outsiders’, which Mr Moffat devised to foster tolerance and respect for everybody, no matter their race, age, faith, incapacity, gender or sexual orientation.
This consists of the lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities — which makes it anathema to many Muslims, whose faith judges the observe of homosexuality to be sinful.
Yesterday the mother and father appeared to have gained the higher hand within the dispute. The varsity issued a press release saying it might droop the teachings ’till a decision has been reached’. The mother and father responded by suspending one other massive demonstration they deliberate to stage yesterday morning.
In some ways, the troubling story unfolding at Parkfield is a snapshot of the complicated and divisive points dealing with multicultural Britain.
In fact, each side are satisfied they symbolize the kids’s greatest pursuits.
Within the training world, brazenly homosexual Mr Moffat, 47, is a heroic determine. In recognition of his crusading work on variety and equality, he has been awarded an MBE and shortlisted for this 12 months’s Varkey Basis International Instructor Prize, which comes with an award of $1million (£756,000). The winner will likely be introduced this month.
His programme goals to encourage kids to rejoice sexual and gender variations from the time they first enter reception class, aged 4 or 5.
Within the training world, brazenly homosexual Mr Moffat, 47, is a heroic determine. In recognition of his crusading work on variety and equality, he has been awarded an MBE and shortlisted for this 12 months’s Varkey Basis International Instructor Prize, which comes with an award of $1million (£756,000). The winner will likely be introduced this month. Pictured Andrew Moffat college trainer at Parkfield Neighborhood
The message is bolstered by a collection of classes and 35 prescribed studying books akin to And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins that elevate a chick (helped by a kindly zookeeper who provides the birds an unhatched egg) and King And King, the message of which is that even a male monarch can have a same-sex accomplice.
Earlier this week, Ofsted gave its backing to No Outsiders, after sending inspectors to the college to research. The regulator discovered no proof to help the claims of a ‘very small however vocal minority of oldsters’ that the curriculum centered disproportionately on LGBT points. It additionally discovered that the programme was not age-inappropriate.
David Williams, the pinnacle trainer, stated the findings had been ‘nice information’ — however the protesters stay decided to have the teachings banned.
Because the unstable demonstration I watched came about, the nice majority of Parkfield pupils remained of their school rooms with their besieged academics.
Well wearing purple and gray uniforms, nevertheless, others protested alongside about 200 mother and father, roused by the firebrand rhetoric of the principle speaker, native businessman Zafar Majid, who delivered his handle via amplifiers, standing on the again of a small flatbed lorry.
‘The varsity have fully underestimated us!’ he shouted, as his viewers jeered and waved banners handed out by an earnest-looking younger man who teaches Islamic research (not at Parkfield, however in a neighborhood madrassa non secular college). They bore slogans akin to ‘Schooling Not Indoctrination’ and ‘Say No to Undermining Parental Management’.
‘This challenge has gone nationwide! It has gone worldwide! Each organisation is taking a look at this as a check case — a psychological battleground the place organisations are pitted in opposition to one another,’ Mr Majid, 47, declared.
‘However this isn’t a battle we began. We’re peaceable individuals. We’re mother and father. We’ve kids we’re actually involved about in regard to what is going on on within the college.’
Mentored by academics rated as ‘excellent’ by Ofsted, the colleges regulator, and guided by ‘glorious’ leaders, they’re high-achieving kids who outperform these at many different state colleges
Branding No Outsiders ‘aggressive indoctrination’ and poisonous, Mr Majid vowed to have it banned not simply at Parkfield however ‘in each college within the nation’.
‘Giving a constructive spin and telling individuals it’s OK so that you can be Muslim and so that you can be homosexual, Mr Moffat?’ he cried. Disgrace! Disgrace! Disgrace!’
The pupils and fogeys dutifully echoed his refrain.
Actually, as Mr Majid admitted to me later, he doesn’t have kids at Parkfield. He’s one in every of many individuals, some from as far-off as London and Wales, who’ve taken up this newest trigger celebre.
Final week, he shared a platform with Dr Lisa Nolland, from Seattle, who described herself as a ‘intercourse historian’ representing Anglican Mainstream, a Christian web site that pronounces on issues of marriage, sexuality and household life.
Asserting that the schoolversus-mosque battle was being adopted in America, she urged the protesting mother and father to battle their trigger to the tip.
‘It is as much as you guys!’ she whooped, telling me afterwards that she was ‘in opposition to the eroticisation of youngsters’ as a result of it ‘damages their wholesome growth’.
Mr Majid concluded the occasion with harsh phrases for the ‘brainwashing’ allegedly being carried out by Mr Moffat — or ‘Mufti Moffat’, as he was mockingly dubbed — and thanked the police for offering the protesters with ‘safety’.
Provided that the assistant head claims to have acquired menacing emails and threats, and that the college has been daubed with graffiti, some would possibly assume this ironic.
Although they daren’t say it brazenly, not all of the mother and father help the marketing campaign. ‘I am not with this in any respect,’ one younger mom with two kids on the college — who appeared very a lot the fashionable younger British Muslim, together with her hijab and trendy make-up — whispered to me via the railings.
‘There are fairly a couple of of us who assume Mr Moffat is an excellent trainer and No Outsiders is a superb thought, however we’re scared to talk out.’
Contradicting claims that oldsters weren’t consulted earlier than the teachings had been launched, she stated she had attended workshops about them, including: ‘I do not see why it should not be taught right here as a result of this impacts us all. I do know Muslims who’re homosexual.’
As if on cue, she was then rebuked by an older girl who had overheard her.
Some mother and father informed me their kids had been left ‘frightened’, ‘upset’ and ‘confused’ by the stand-off, which has been occurring for greater than two months.
Provided that major college pupils usually regard each their academics and their mother and father as function fashions, their sense of bewilderment is comprehensible.
The protest got here to a head a couple of weeks in the past, when about 600 mother and father stored their kids away from college. Ringleaders have warned of additional ‘strikes’ until the teachings are stopped.
Parkfield Neighborhood College in Birmingham which has suspended classes about variety and LGBT points after they triggered weekly mother and father’ protests
Certainly, about ten kids are stated to have been withdrawn from college altogether, their mother and father preferring to show them at house, and there has even been discuss of a everlasting exodus if the dispute, which is being mediated by the Division for Schooling, is just not resolved.
Ought to that occur, ‘it might be the college’s loss as a result of they want us to remain open’, stated Mohammed Hassan, 27, who has a five-year-old son in reception class. Mr Hassan was one in every of a number of protesters who prefaced their remarks with: ‘I am not homophobic, however . . .’
That this ugly conflict is happening within the space the place, in 2014, Islamic hardliners had been alleged to have hatched the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to infiltrate the governing our bodies of dozens of colleges and indoctrinate pupils in extremist ideology, makes it all of the extra disturbing.
Parkfield was not tainted by the scandal. However in line with Uthmann Ahmad, 29, the madrassa trainer who handed out the placards final Thursday, a close-by major college concerned within the Trojan Horse affair has been drawn in.
It’s Nansen Major — the place Christmas and Diwali celebrations had been allegedly cancelled, Arabic classes changed French, and Islamic assemblies had been substituted for Christian ones.
In a message posted on its web site final November, this college stated it might even be introducing the No Outsiders programme.
However Mr Ahmad, who has a ten-year-old brother at Nansen, claims the plan was scrapped after his father complained that selling LGBT consciousness was ‘morally improper’ and — a well-known chorus — not ‘age-appropriate’ for major college kids.
Invited to touch upon this declare, Nansen Major didn’t reply.
This challenge is being additional muddied by claims, led by an influential Islamic blogger, that Mr Moffat’s academic programme — which attracts on the 2010 Equality Act and the ‘Basic British Values’ set out within the Residence Workplace’s much-criticised ‘Stop’ anti-radicalisation technique — is a part of an Institution-driven scheme meant to undermine the religion of younger Muslims.
It’s all fomenting an environment of distrust on this already delicate neighbourhood, and the kids, whose training is struggling, are caught within the center. How has it come to this?
Underneath present legislation, major colleges will not be required to show LGBT points in any respect. However the Division for Schooling encourages them to take action in the event that they contemplate it applicable, and in 2020, underneath new laws, ‘relationship training’ in all its facets will turn out to be a statutory requirement.
Impressed by his private expertise, Mr Moffat has been zealously pioneering the trigger for a few years. In a profile article, he revealed how he started to understand he was totally different from different boys at six, as a result of he did not like soccer and his mates had been primarily ladies.
At 13, he was attacked by a gang as a result of he appreciated the pop group Wham!, fronted by George Michael, whose homosexuality on the time was changing into obvious.
By 16 he knew he was homosexual, however he did not come out for an additional decade. For within the Eighties, when he was an adolescent, Margaret Thatcher had launched the now-repealed Part 28 legislation, banning native authority colleges from selling ‘the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended household relationship’, and homophobia was rife.
It was a frivolous and considerably weird story that carried Mr Moffat into the highlight. As he and his accomplice make frequent journeys to Sweden — and notably take pleasure in attending heats of the Eurovision Music Contest there — they selected a Swedish theme for his or her civil partnership ceremony in 2006.
They wore matching cravats in yellow and blue, the colors of the Swedish flag, performed music by Abba, and the resort even drafted in a Swedish barman. ‘Couple Murmur Swede Nothings’ was the headline within the Birmingham Publish.
Eight years later, nevertheless, a extra critical matter put Mr Moffat again within the information.
He was educating on the Chilwell Croft Academy major college in Birmingham, the place he launched the primary model of his self-invented equality and variety curriculum — and courageously got here out earlier than the whole college throughout an meeting.
All of it resulted in a protest by mother and father, Christian in addition to Muslim, and when the college requested him to apologise and withdraw the textbooks he used, he resigned.
Much less resilient characters may need deserted the mission. Both that or taken up a submit in a liberal-leaning space the place most mother and father would possibly embrace his educating philosophy.
But by taking an assistant headship at Parkfield in 2014, he intentionally leapt from frying pan to fireside, for, as he has defined in an interview with The Guardian: ‘There was no level in going to an space the place it might be a straightforward activity.
‘I needed to go the place I would meet the identical challenges, so as to discover a totally different technique to meet them. I used to be decided to make LGBT equality a actuality in any group. I couldn’t afford to get it improper a second time.’
As the primary bell sounded a couple of days in the past, nevertheless, I watched them be a part of their moms and dads in an offended, extremely orchestrated demonstration exterior the gates
Individually, he stated: ‘Kids must know from an early age that each one households are totally different. Some have a mum and a dad, some simply have a mum, or only a dad. Some have two mums or two dads.’
Many mother and father will applaud his views. Others, no matter their non secular beliefs, will likely assume it questionable that the minds of four-year-old kids must be coping with questions of sexual orientation and gender.
Actually, his zestful educating of LGBT points is not going to be to everybody’s style.
For instance, after 49 individuals had been massacred and 53 wounded at a homosexual nightclub in Florida in 2016 by a gunman who pledged his allegiance to IS, Mr Moffat confirmed pupils aged 9 and ten pictures of individuals queueing to offer blood.
The donors’ need to assist these of a distinct sexual orientation, he stated, completely illustrated his ‘no outsiders’ precept.
His programme has been taken up by a number of different colleges within the Midlands and past, nevertheless, and has gained approval from the training authorities.
Expressing help for Parkfield’s stance a couple of days in the past, Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman stated colleges ought to educate kids they will have ‘two mummies’ or ‘two daddies’; and that they aren’t ‘dangerous or ailing’ as a result of they do not ‘match into a standard sample’.
The essence of democracy, Ms Spielman added, was that individuals did not at all times get their very own manner, however accepted the bulk choice.
One curious facet of this affair is that, for 4 years, mother and father at Parkfield appeared to simply accept Mr Moffat’s revised educating programme, which he set out in a £29 textbook and launched on the college on his appointment.
Nobody complained till final autumn, when moms started voicing considerations at a espresso morning. Amongst them was Mariam Ahmed, whose four-year-old daughter, Annayah, started attending the college in September.
‘She was coming house saying, ‘I can put on a boy’s garments . . . I can have a boy’s title’,’ Mrs Ahmed, now a driving pressure behind the marketing campaign, informed me.
‘Then I began listening to comparable tales from different mother and father and I realised this was extra alarming than I might thought. Their children had been saying ‘Mr Moffat says it is OK to be homosexual’, and vice-versa intercourse isn’t any downside.’
‘We aren’t in opposition to Mr Moffat. He’s gay himself, and that is completely wonderful. And as a trainer he is nice. What we don’t agree with is his No Outsiders guide.’
Nonetheless, Mrs Ahmed made a list of allegations in opposition to the assistant head and the college, saying, for instance, that her kids and people of different outstanding campaigners had been being ‘victimised’, and accusing Mr Moffat of mendacity when he stated he has acquired ‘nasty emails’ and threats. She additional claimed he has put up a poster that includes ‘solely homosexual celebrities’, however no straight ones, within the college.
And she or he maintained that the educating programme was ushered in ‘underneath the radar’ with out parental session, even stating that nobody knew something about it till the kids started coming house with their tales a couple of months in the past — an odd suggestion, given the media consideration it has attracted from its inception.
The varsity stated its No Outsiders mission – which teaches tolerance of various teams, together with these of various races, genders and sexual orientation – is not going to be taught ’till a decision has been reached’
The varsity declined to touch upon these claims, saying solely that it might ‘work along with mother and father, the Division for Schooling and others concerned to discover a manner ahead’.
The DfE stated: ‘Parkfield is an impressive college with a management group and workers dedicated to creating certain pupils obtain the most effective training. We belief head academics to make choices about what is acceptable for his or her pupils to be taught and to seek the advice of mother and father on the context of delicate topics.
‘All colleges ought to promote the elemental British values . . . we’re working with the college and its mother and father to discover a answer.’
How, then, would possibly this very trendy imbroglio be resolved?
Final night time, it appeared the progressive educationalists and reactionary mother and father had been inching in direction of a compromise, regardless of their very totally different views.
For the sake of the kids, we should hope so, for they’re struggling the results of this battle for ideological supremacy.
Extra reporting: AMARDEEP BASSEY