Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act

Part of Petition - Closure of Heywood Crown Post Office – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 25th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Richard Burden Richard Burden Labour, Birmingham, Northfield 4:23 pm, 25th June 2019

It is a privilege to follow so many moving and powerful speeches. I did not come to the Chamber intending to make a speech; I had hoped to ask my hon. Friend Mr Godsiff a couple of questions, but having heard what he said, I was moved to rise to make just a few points.

My hon. Friend sought to characterise what has been happening outside Anderton Park school as an issue of consultation. I have to say, on the basis of what I have seen, that the message that comes across from those protests is not principally about consultation. Yes, the issue of consultation is in there, but the protests are actually about an objection in principle to LGBT-inclusive education. If that is not the case, how else can we read a placard that says, “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”? What is that if not an objection in principle to LGBT-inclusive education?

However, it is not just the fact that those views are being expressed, but the aggression with which they have been expressed, that has upset and profoundly offended so many people of, I believe, all races and all religions in Birmingham. The level of abuse that the headteacher has suffered—the things that have been said through megaphones not just at Anderton Park but before that at Parkfield school—is utterly outrageous, and I think we have a responsibility in this place to stand up and say that that is simply not on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green has said that if he has upset or offended anyone then he apologises, and I am grateful he has said that and welcome that, but I do hope he will reflect on whether when on camera he turns to one of the leaders of those protests—a man who does not even have a child at that school—and says, “You are right; no more nor less, you are right”, those words were wisely chosen, because I do not believe that the message that that gentleman has given is right.

Dialogue between parents and schools is obviously a good thing in any part of the curriculum, but there are also some principles at stake here and they deserve repeating. Sometimes this issue is talked about is if it is about sex education, but it is not; it not about sexualisation at all. It is about relationships education, and to me there is one word and theme that has come up several times in this debate so far and that is absolutely central to all relationships education, and that is the importance of respect. I am sorry, but I disagree with my hon. Friend: I do not think that there is any age-appropriate threshold for respect. I believe that from the word go children should be taught to respect other people, whoever they are and whatever they are. I do not believe we would be right in adopting a curriculum or an approach which implies to young people that if they go to school with a friend who has two daddies or two mummies, instead of one daddy and one mummy, somehow he or she or his or her parents are less deserving of respect than the other child’s parents.

I just think that that is a principle which should be taught from the word go. We should have no problem in upholding that principle. It is a principle on which I will not compromise, and it is the reason why, I am afraid, on this issue I am on the other side of the fence from my hon. Friend.