Anderton Park Primary: Court case to begin over right to protest outside school

14 October 2019, 09:58 | Updated: 14 October 2019, 10:08

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A trial is due to start today over an exclusion zone outside a Birmingham primary school where heated demonstrations have been held over equality lessons.

Anderton Park Primary school in Birmingham has become the centre of a national debate over how children should be taught about LGBT equality.

A trial is due to start today over the legality of an exclusion zone outside the school where heated demonstrations have been held over equality lessons.

At the start of 2019 the Head Teacher at Anderton brought in the “No Outsiders” programme, which was designed to teach kids about race, religion and sexual equality, for example a story book with a penguin with two dads to represent a same sex couple.

Protests at the school gates started because parents say they weren't consulted about the programme being brought in.

The demonstrations eventually grew until there were hundreds packed into the cul-de-sac outside the school.

Headteacher of Anderton Park, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson told us the protests were “vicious” and “it is attacking something that is a protected characteristic under British Law and I’m not sure how that is allowed to happen”

Birmingham City Council stepped in to declare a banned zone around Anderton Park, which was upheld in the high court. However, protests continued at the edge of the exclusion zone.

We put in an FOI request with West Midlands Police which revealed how much reported homophobic hate crimes have risen.

In March this year, when the protests began, there were 26 reports of homophobic hate crimes, that’s compared to just 6 in March the previous year.

Protestors deny the correlation and Rosina Afsar who’s one of many parents who took action and took her children out of the school told us they are “not homophobic” and that a “transparent consultation” is all they want in order to stop the protests.

The government is, however, bringing in the Relationships and Sexual Education Act from September 2020 which says ALL schools will need to teach about equality in some form.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson “There is no place, no place for protests outside of any schools, I do not want to see anyone intimidating children, parents and teachers ...and I think the British people do not expect to see protests outside of any school in this country”

Parents protesting outside the school
Parents protesting outside the school. Picture: PA

Our reporter Josh Giltrap has been to the school and spoke to parents and teachers.

The No Outsiders program is designed to teach children about subjects such as racial equality and same-sex relationships.

Protests at the school have been led by Shakeel Afsar who said parents were concerned they hadn't been consulted by the school before the lessons were introduced.

At points, hundreds of demonstrators were outside the school causing Birmingham City Council to impose an order banning protests in the area.

Parents have been staging protests outside the school on Fridays
Parents have been staging protests outside the school on Fridays. Picture: PA

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE HEARING?

At the last hearing the judge lifted their original protest ban saying he said he was "not satisfied" Birmingham City Council had presented all relevant evidence at the original hearing, and not convinced of its decision to apply for the injunction without informing the other parties.

However, he did impose a new temporary order which was very similar to the first, saying “I find it likely the (city council) will establish at trial some of the protesting has gone beyond lawful limits and strayed into harassing, alarming or distressing conduct, through its persistence, timing and context.”

He was also unhappy first time around that although the ban named Shakeel and Rosina Afsar, and Amir Ahmed. It then listed ‘persons unknown’ as those who’d be banned from protesting there noting this could include anyone in the entire world.

At the time he upheld that ban on all protests until a full hearing could be held and precisely who can or cannot protest is likely to be closely scrutinised this week.

The high court is expected to return a verdict on the appeal by this Friday.

Watch the whole story in the video at the top of the page.

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