Education

Part of Rating and Valuation – in the House of Commons at 7:56 pm on 20th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy) 7:56 pm, 20th March 2019

These are important new rules and I am glad that my Front Bench is giving them our wholehearted support. On the Labour Benches, we are very proud of our role in repealing section 28, not just in law but in spirit. We are very proud of the role we played in getting the Equality Acts on to the statute book. I never come into the Chamber without looking at the words on the wall behind me. “More in common” is at the heart of the Equality Act 2010. That Act and inclusive education are the most important ways in which we deliver that message on the wall behind me, through inclusive education to the children and the future of this country. It reminds us that we cannot and will not pick and choose the equalities that we champion and therefore teach our young people.

The Minister will know that in Parkfield School in my constituency, we have outstanding educators and pioneers such as Andrew Moffat, who is now up for global teacher of the year. We wish him all the luck in the world in securing that prize. However, Parkfield is a good illustration of the challenges that we all have in navigating this agenda not on paper but in the real world. That is where we saw the risks of what happens when consultation just comes to a halt for years on end. We saw what happens when parents become concerned that protected characteristics are not taught in full or in a balanced way. We saw, lit up in lights, the concern when there was a hint that this was a programme that was linked to the de-radicalisation programme, Prevent. That is still something that requires an apology.

Disputes will arise as we translate this agenda into action. As the Minister knows, I feel the Government were much too slow to get a grip on their academy in Parkfield. That delay allowed those with intolerant and extreme views to hijack what was a group of parents simply wanting their voice to be heard and their role to be respected. I hope that we will send out a clear message from this Chamber to those who have been circulating that intolerant hatred aimed at the LGBT community that we will never see it go unchallenged. We stand united—united against that hatred in our city and in our schools. Parkfield parents want the Equality Act to be taught in full. They want every protected characteristic to be taught. They ask nothing more than for their voice to be heard and their role to be respected.

The challenge for the Minister, as he knows, is that he is asking academies to take full school autonomy without the kind of accountability that delivers the dialogue that he says is at the heart of this guidance. He needs to put more guidance on the table, because inclusive education is too precious to risk in disputes like those we have had over the past month.