Parents protest outside Birchfields Primary School in Manchester over LGBT material

Parents have demanded that ‘all LGBT material; is restricted after a video of a transgender girl was shown to pupils

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Parents opposed to LGBT material being shown to their children staged a protest outside a Manchester primary school on Tuesday (July 4). Around 100 people were reported to have demonstrated outside Birchfields Primary School in Fallowfield in the morning, with more attending in the afternoon.

Protesters were heard chanting ‘shame on you’ and ‘too much, too soon’, while holding signs reading ‘stop sexualising our children’. Some attendees were not associated with the school, but were there to ‘marshall’ the protest, the Local Democracy Reporting Service has been told. 

One of the organisers – a parent of four children at the school – has now been banned from entering its grounds. Mohammed Sajjad denies allegations his behaviour towards school staff has been threatening and intimidating.

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It comes after hundreds of children were kept off school for four days over the last few weeks. Organisers say the ‘strike’ was over content in the curriculum.

It follows a recent meeting with parents in which relationship and sexuality education (RSE) classes were discussed. Protesters have called for an ‘open and honest’ conversation about the rest of the curriculum.

Protest against LGBT material at Birchfields Primary School in Manchester. July 4, 2023. Credit: 5Pillars.Protest against LGBT material at Birchfields Primary School in Manchester. July 4, 2023. Credit: 5Pillars.
Protest against LGBT material at Birchfields Primary School in Manchester. July 4, 2023. Credit: 5Pillars.

They have demanded that ‘all LGBT material; is restricted to RSE after a video of a transgender girl was shown to pupils in another lesson last year. The video was later removed from the curriculum. The school says it does not teach sex education.

Speaking to the LDRS, Mr Sajjad said: “Parents are really frustrated because they are hearing stuff from their kids. We feel we shouldn’t be hearing from our children if the school shows sensitive material.”

Mr Sajjad said he started speaking to other parents about his concerns after the video was shown. He claims parents have complained about other aspects of the curriculum.

A WhatsApp group was set up to discuss the matter and efforts were made to engage with the school and the council before the strikes took place, he claims. Starting with a one-day strike on June 12, parents were encouraged to keep their children off school on three further days the following week.

A protest took place outside the school on Tuesday morning (July 4).

Since then, Mr Sajjad says he has received a banning order, instructing him not to enter the grounds or premises of the school until further notice. A letter sent to him by the town hall accuses him of ‘threatening and intimidating’ behaviour, which he denies.

LGBT staff at the school have felt unsafe and have not been able to take part in normal school activities, the council claimed in the letter. Mr Sajjad denies the allegations.

He said: “We just want an open and honest discussion with teachers regarding the material being shown and how its being delivered. We’ve asked for a review of all content that can be deemed as age inappropriate or sensitive.”

Parents have been invited to the school to discuss the content of the curriculum and some changes have been made as a result. Children are not taught about sex, but about healthy relationships between people as part of the RSE curriculum, the LDRS has been told.

A spokesperson for the school said: “Following consultation with parents, we have never taught sex education at Birchfields Primary.

“We have, however, been successfully teaching relationship education in our school for some time and are proud of the impact this has on us being a welcoming and inclusive school where children thrive and are happy.

“Some parents have recently expressed concern about the content of this curriculum, which is set by the [Department for Education], and we’re working closely with parents to address the issues raised.”

A Manchester council spokesperson said: “Manchester is a diverse and welcoming city and we want all our children and young people to grow up understanding and respecting differences between people. Our primary schools have a key part to play in this and work hard to deliver a rounded curriculum, which includes relationship education, as they’re required to by the [Department for Education].

“Concerns have been expressed by a small number of parents about aspects of this, but we’re working with the school and parents to resolve the issues raised.

“All our children and school staff have a right to be able to attend school and to access their education without fear or interruption, and we would urge parents to work with the school and not to disrupt learning.”