It almost seems defunct now the No Outsiders programme has been pulled from the school but here’s how my informal meeting went with Andy Moffat, Deputy Headteacher at the centre of the storm in which parents protested about having their children being taught “gay lessons”.
On the approach to Parkfield, I noted the sign announcing the school name. What will it bring? I thought.
There were no signs of Protestors at the gates or media pressing through. It was a quiet, subdued afternoon. I supposed all the school children had gone home. I walked through the gates and through the entrance.
What struck me most was the colour, the warm welcoming signs and the creativity of images plastered on the wall.
This was a school which was proud of its heritage, innovations and unique ways to celebrate diversity.
All the messages/images on the walls were created by children welcoming diversity and difference, embracing all the strands of the Equality Act 2010.
Andy welcomed me, smiling, with a warm handshake. I could see he was holding it together. We walked through the corridors and upstairs. I was looking for signs of this “gay agenda”.
All I could see was a celebration of diversity, questions, facts, images, statements, pinned on the walls.
It was incredibly inspiring. It was the type of school I would’ve liked to have attended when I was a child.
Andy introduced me to the Headteacher, who was complimentary about my appearance on The Big Questions.
I made several enquiries about the parents/protestors. Where was Fatima Shah now? And who is the man with the megaphone?
Fatima has kept a low profile since this furore broke out. The man spewing homophobic rhetoric isn’t even a parent and has no connection to the school at all.
Andy showed me the assembly hall. Again, the boards were covered with positive words and images about diversity and differences.
We talked for about an hour. I can’t share all that we spoke about, but it provided me with good insight about the No Outsiders programme, how he had created it with very good intentions, and how the school had supported him with his ethos.
“No Outsiders has run for four years without complaints until now”
The programme has been running in the school for four years without any complaints until now. Parents HAD been consulted and they were all on board with the idea and attended workshops.
Andy showed me the books in question. They are remarkable little books for kids, covering various aspects of family, race, religion, difference. In one book, it mentions there are families with 2 mummies or 2 daddies. That’s all. On one page. In a book. For little children. To highlight reality. And representation.
In another book, once again, it mentions in one line, LGBT. That is all.
I realised then, how passionate, committed and almost at breaking point Andy Moffat is. He’s really striving to make positive changes. As a white, middle-class teacher, he could’ve easily gone to ANY school in the UK. But no. He chose an inner-city school, knowing it was in a predominately Muslim location. His plan of action – to break the taboo or barriers and slowly encourage children and parents to learn and accept difference in relation to British values and law. As a gay man, why shouldn’t he introduce LGBTQ issues, discuss discrimination and LGBT- phobia? It exists and is part of life. Andy is working hard in his inner-city school to reduce or eliminate it.
However, those who are protesting have taken the step to not only try and damage his career, the education the children receive, the reputation of the school, they also damage what it means to be Muslim.
I heard about the vile death threats, the rumours, the intimidation, saw the images and videos…
The ironic thing is, the protestors are saying Andy is indoctrinating the children. But in talking so negatively about the lessons, taking the kids out of school, sharing negative petitions, and spouting homophobic comments, is placing them in that very same position. Are they not brainwashing, conditioning and indoctrinating the children?
It also reminds me of two things:
- The controversy and furore surrounding The Satanic Verses 30 years ago. Many who protested hadn’t even read the book.
- The interpretation of the Story of Lot and how it is declared by many who state it’s a sin to be homosexual when they haven’t even read it.
“Protesters are misrepresenting the wider Muslim community”
As Muslims protesting, I would say they need to take a step back, re-evaluate what they are doing, how they are misrepresenting the wider Muslim community and understand in not adhering to educational policies, standards, ethics and ethos, they are alienating themselves even more.
Why perpetuate the negative stereotypes in the media especially?
The protestors also need to stop braying like a lynch mob for the removal of the “gay lessons” and resignation of Andy and look to their own actions.
I’m sure this isn’t the way of Allah or the majority of Muslims.
I’m sure Allah said, seek knowledge before making a decision which might have a detrimental effect on oneself and others.
I’m sure Allah said, defend your faith but with good reason and irrational decisions are made out of fear.
I’m sure good Muslims take time out to reflect, review and reason before they judge others?
I’m sure Allah is watching and on the Day of Judgement ask the Protestors: What did YOU do to bring unity to the community?
As I’m part of the LGBT+ community and a person of faith, I really believe we need to be standing up together. We may have fought for our rights, but we really need to embrace our brothers and sisters who are similar to me.
We really need to strive for more action and positive changes to educate and include.
I thought the battle scars were healing, but this protest at Parkfield has opened old wounds.
Please don’t allow it to become another Section 28.