A group of parents staged a furious protest against LGBT-inclusive education outside of an east London school.
In scenes similar to those that played out in Birmingham back in 2019, parents packed the leafy streets outside Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets on Monday (19 October) shouting: “My child, my rights!”
Around 150 parents, according to journalists on the ground and organisers, held placards reading: “Don’t Confuse Children”, “I Do Not Content”, “Too Much, Too Soon” and “Education, Not Sexualisation.”
Demonstrators demanded the primary school’s headteacher, Paul Jackson, resign while raising concerns over the mandatory teaching of relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons.
BREAKING: I've arrived outside Manorfield Primary School in London where concerned British Muslim parents are protesting against sex education "RSE" lessons for kids.#ManorfieldPrimarySchool #RSE @ManorfieldPri @PressTV pic.twitter.com/CskQvRvtr3
— Robert Carter (@Bob_cart124) October 19, 2021
The parents, who organised jointly as the “Parents of Manorfield”, are demanding an end to teaching of LGBT+ relationships and “sexual body parts” before year five.
A statement from the school didn’t detail its curriculum. However, under guidelines that have been mandatory since September 2020, every school child must learn about different types of families, including those with same-sex parents, while secondary school students will learn about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Relationships education must be taught in all schools. It is recommended that primary schools also teach sex education, but it is at their discretion.
The Department of Education’s guidance stresses that RSE must be taught at in an “age-appropriate way”.
A spokesperson for the Manorfield Primary told MyLondon: “We are aware of this morning’s demonstration outside of our school and have worked closely with appropriate authorities to ensure the safety of all children, staff and parents.
“The health, safety and wellbeing of our pupils is our top priority, and we work hard as a school to ensure that our full curriculum supports this.
“Our school also values open and constructive dialogue between the school and the community it serves, especially parents, which is why we have offered a number of consultative activities and opportunities for parents to engage with the RSE policy.
“We have listened to all of their feedback and taken it into consideration along with all of the guidance from the Department for Education and London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
“Any updates to the policy will be announced later this week and the policy will be published on our website.”
In a lengthy statement posted on the Parents of Manorfield Twitter account, the group said that the demonstration was the upshot of “numerous failed attempts” to engage with the school’s administrators across several months.
Tensions flared, the statement claimed, because the school administrators did not “consult parents in developing and reviewing” RSE policy, which it said does not take into account the local community’s Muslim faith.
Administrators allegedly responded to parents’ concerns with a “policy of silence”.
“We parents explored every avenue and made every effort to engage the school regarding RSE,” the statement read. “The headteacher refused to engage and we have been left with no choice but to protest.”
“Our children must be heard!” the crowd screamed, “our children must be children!”
Stonewall has said that the updated RSE guidelines “better reflect the world that we now live in, covering important issues like consent and online safety alongside LGBTQ+ identities and relationships”.
“We believe it’s vital for children to know that LGBTQ+ people and families exist and that they should be accepted like everybody else,” the charity added.
“Children should learn this throughout primary and secondary school. Not only will this help young children from LGBTQ+ families feel accepted, it will also prevent bullying in the long run.”
“Tower Hamlets is a place where we celebrate our differences and see our diversity as a strength,” a London Borough for Tower Hamlets spokesperson told PinkNews.
“We want our schools to be places which champion this and make our children, and all families, feel welcome. We are also a place where we want our children to be safe, and the safety of children is an important part of the relationship and sexual education curriculum.”
PinkNews contacted Manorfield Primary School for comment.