Hundreds of children taken out of school during campaign against LGBT lessons

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

Hundreds of children have been taken out of a Birmingham primary school, as protesters continue to campaign against the teaching of LGBT lessons.

Campaigners claimed around 600 pupils had been taken out of lessons at Anderton Park Primary School on Monday, but headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said the number was about half that and a 35% increase in unauthorised absence.

Police attended the school as tensions flared between protesters and MP Jess Philips, who turned up to support the LGBT community.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said children and teachers should not have to walk past protests on their way to school and stressed the importance of children having "an opportunity to find out about and discuss the reality of our society".

Protests have taken place at the school over the LGBT lessons. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson told ITV News it was "utterly shocking" students had been pulled from school because of the LGBT lessons.

She said: "All schools in this country promote equality, which include saying things like, it's OK to have two mummies... and that's what this is about.

"So parents or a few parents might be willing to keep their child off school for a day, so miss a day of school...risk getting fines, having unauthorised absence on their record... it almost beggars belief."

She added: "Children completely get equality and it's a handful of parents who don't."

However one protester, whose children do not attend Anderton Park Primary School, accused the headteacher of intolerance and said the lessons were "changing our children's moral values".

He added: "This community has a different moral position on same-sex relationships and that's simply not respected.

"The kids come to believe that it's normal to have same-sex relationships and that goes against our morality, we don't believe it's normal."

MP Jess Philips, who supports the LGBT community, clashed with a protester outside the school as she said the campaigners were harming the reputation of the Muslim community.

The school does not fall within Ms Philips' constituency, but she said she was asked to visit the school by the headteacher.

The Labour MP for Yardley had a heated exchange with a protester, in which she called for an exclusion zone around the school to protect children from the protests.

She told the campaigner: "I don't agree that you can pick and choose which equality you can and can't have.

"I'm afraid our equality laws protect us all."

  • MP Jess Philips had a heated exchange with a protester

The leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward, has since threatened protesters with a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to counter the demonstrations.

He said children and staff have the right to attend school "without this daily disruption".

The incident comes after a group who placed placards and banners supporting the school’s stance claimed eggs were thrown at them in an altercation on Sunday night.

Addressing the demonstrations, Mr Hinds said: “We live in a society where we have a legal framework that rightly protects different people through society and recognises, celebrates the fact that people are different.

Hundreds of pupils have been taken out of lessons at the Birmingham primary school. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

“Of course, it’s also true that religion itself is a protected characteristic under the equalities legislation but it is important that in school, children are growing up knowing about modern Britain, knowing about the country in which they are going to become adults.

“There is really good dialogue going on in Birmingham and elsewhere and I want that to continue.”

Explaining why the Government takes a different stance to parents on the issue, Mr Hinds said: “You can have a child in your class who has same-sex parents, you can have children who have two parents, children who have single parents, children who come to school with their grandparents, children who are with foster carers – all sorts of different families.

“I think this is a thing not only to recognise but to celebrate. It’s good to be talking about it."