Exclusive: Parkfield says pausing LGBT work was wrong

CEO says decision to suspend No Outsiders made it look like school had done something wrong and empowered protesters

Hazel Pulley, chief executive of the Excelsior Multi-Academy Trust that runs Parkfield Community School.

The chief executive of the academy trust that runs Parkfield primary has said its decision to suspend its equalities programme was a mistake that empowered anti-LGBT protesters.

The No Outsiders scheme, which raises awareness of different characteristics that are protected by the Equalities Act, was developed by Andrew Moffat, the assistant head of Parkfield Community School in Birmingham.

Earlier this year, the school became the focus of highly-publicised demonstrations by mainly Muslim parents who objected to LGBT content in some of the lessons.

Long read: Life in the academy rocked by LGBT protests

Minister: Gibb condemns school protests

No Outsiders: Parkfield says pausing LGBT work was wrong​​​​​​​

The school suspended the programme in March and launched a consultation with parents.

Hazel Pulley, CEO of the Excelsior Multi-Academy Trust, which runs the school, has said the Department for Education put it under “extreme pressure” to pause the programme in order to stop the protests.

Now, she has told Tes that the DfE was wrong to ask it to suspend the programme, and the school was wrong to do so.

She said: “We shouldn’t have suspended, and we shouldn’t have been asked to suspend. I’ve really tussled with this, and I am absolutely adamant now: don’t suspend, it gave power to one side.

“There was nothing wrong; it immediately made it look as if you were doing something wrong and we hadn’t.”

Earlier this week Rob Kelsall, national secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, told BBC Panorama that the decision to pause the programme was a “fatal mistake” that showed campaigners they could force schools to retreat.

Ms Pulley told Tes: “It didn’t work, on reflection, because whilst we were suspended it was as if it empowered them. It empowered them with what they had managed to do.

“So when we went into meetings they came at it from a stance of ‘well look what we’ve managed to do now, look what we could do in the future’.”

She said that, in retrospect, Parkfield should have gone ahead with the consultation at the same time as continuing the programme.

When approached by Tes, the DfE declined to comment. It has previously disputed the claim that it pressured the school to stop teaching about equalities.

Earlier this month, Parkfield announced that it would resume a revised version of the programme, renamed No Outsiders for a Faith Community, in September.

The Parkfield Parent Group has rejected the revised programme, and demonstrators have returned to the school.

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