In recent months the No Outsiders program, taught to primary aged pupils at Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham, has been the subject of much controversy.
Parents have taken their children out of school in protest that the content is not age appropriate. They also say they haven’t been consulted on and that it goes against their religious morals.
So the claim is that parents feel they are being discriminated against on religious grounds. They do not seem to wish for their children to learn about what equality is and in particular what it means for the LGBT community (a protected characteristic) unless it is on their terms (determined by their religious belief, another protected characteristic).
Despite Ofsted confirming the No Outsiders program is taught in an age-appropriate way, despite the Secretary of State for Education maintaining schools must promote equality and parents cannot veto LGBT+ lessons, and despite a consultation taking place, it is the parents (egged on by conservative extremists) that are refusing to budge.
What does the Equality Act 2010 say?
The Equalities Act serves as a frame of reference in how we conduct ourselves in public roles. It includes carrying out a role such as a doctor, MP or even a teacher. It also includes running private and public organizations such as schools.
Schools are required to implement the Equalities Act 2010. They must ensure that activities do not discriminate against a pupil based on the following protected characteristics:
marriage and civil partnership;
pregnancy and maternity;
religion or belief;
What it does NOT mean is that a protected characteristic takes precedence over another protected characteristic.
This issue is not about the parents but about their children.
Children have a right to learn about equality in whatever context a schools wishes to teach it in. It is not for the parents to deny their child learning what it is to live in a pluralistic society.
If now is not age appropriate, then when is? And do we leave it for the parents to determine this in the context of schools? How will this work in practice? Will schools need to provide lesson plans to parents before teaching a class? Will parents visit every lesson to ensure what they want teaching, is taught? You should not be telling a school what to teach and how to teach it, especially if what and how they teach does not contravene the Equalities Act 2010. We must trust our schools!
Being treated equally means your protected characteristic is not used against you, but it also means you cannot use it against someone else. It is a fact that our society has a rich mix of people, whether they are of different, races, religions or sexual orientations. We cannot hide from this fact, just like white British racists cannot hide from BME people that are just as British as they are.
Our diversity is now the fabric of society, so unless these parents want to tear their children away from it, they should be helping to stitch them together.