Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act

Part of Petition - Closure of Heywood Crown Post Office – in the House of Commons at 3:05 pm on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Roger Godsiff Roger Godsiff Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green 3:05 pm, 25th June 2019

No, I will not.

The school is in an area with a very large Muslim population. Nearly all the children who attend are from Muslim families. When the protests began outside the school in my constituency I did not take sides or make public comment. I took the view that parents of young children do not protest against their child’s school unless they have some grievance. Parents protest against many things, including the Government and the local council, but to protest against their child’s school is rare, and there has to be some particular reason for it.

I went and saw the headteacher. I asked questions and put suggestions to her. I have deliberately not put her responses in the public domain, because I believe that if I had done so it would have inflamed the situation, but I did tell the leader of the council what they were. Three officials from the Department for Education were present, and they took detailed notes, which presumably were conveyed to the Minister. I have known the headteacher for a number of years, and I respect her academic achievements at the school, which follow the excellent work initiated by the previous head, Anne Bufton, at the school. Before leaving the meeting with the headteacher, I did say that if she or her staff felt threatened by the protests outside the school then she should apply for a restraint injunction to get them moved elsewhere, and I explained to her the procedure for doing that. No such injunction was sought until more than a month later.

I then invited, through my Muslim assistant, the leaders of the protest to come and see me at my house. I was shown copies of letters written to the headteacher expressing their concerns, which were not replied to. I saw statements from parents saying that the headteacher would not have a parents meeting, but would talk to parents only on a one-to-one basis. I saw statements saying that, when such meetings took place, the individual parents were told that what the school was doing was the Equality Act. I saw letters and statements which, time and again, emphasised that the protesters—mostly young mothers—were not seeking to undermine the Equality Act, not least because it protected Muslims from Islamophobic criticism, and that all they were asking for was meaningful consultation about what was the appropriate age for the nine protected characteristics to be introduced to their children. They told me that they had ongoing contact with the appropriate police superintendent every day a protest was organised. They told him when the protest would start and finish, and they always asked for the police to be present to ensure that no laws were broken by the demonstrators.