High court maintains protest ban around Anderton Park School

November 26, 2019

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has welcomed the continuation of an injunction preventing protests outside of Anderton Park School in Birmingham. Back in May Birmingham City Council successfully applied for the ban, which followed intimidating protests outside of the school related to it promoting acceptance towards LGBT people. The injunction was continued in June and today the High Court has ruled that the ban can continue permanently, due to the nature of earlier protests and the threat of them reoccurring.

While the High Court’s ruling upholds Birmingham City Council’s application, it has lifted a restriction on abusive social media posts directed at school staff, in the interests of free speech. It has however introduced a new restriction on protesters using megaphones or audio amplification on the edge of protest exclusion zone.

The Court has upheld the City Council’s motivation for seeking the injunction (for ‘preventing disorder and protecting the reputations and rights of others’) and finds that Anderton Park School’s teaching has been ‘… misrepresented, sometimes grossly misrepresented, in the course of the protests. The matters that have actually been taught are limited, and lawful.’ (paragraph 21) The ruling chronicles some of the most extreme false accusations that have been directed against the primary school. They include speakers outside or near the school alleging that it was pursuing ‘a paedophile agenda’ and teaching children to masturbate (paragraph 3).

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Revd Stephen Terry, said ‘The disruptive, aggressive and abusive protests outside Anderton Park School went far beyond the bounds of legitimate protest. While it is very disappointing that a school should need protection from the courts in this way, it is important and proportionate that the High Court has ruled that the safe zone around the school must continue.’

‘The Equality Act requires schools to promote acceptance towards people on the grounds of sexual orientation. It is regrettable that situations like that at Anderton Park have been inflamed by poorly worded guidance about Relationships and Sex Education this year from the Department for Education. The guidance sends a signal that primary schools should seek accommodation with families who seek to justify homophobic behaviour and attitudes on the grounds of the supposed teachings of their faith, which has been disastrous.’

‘The protests outside Anderton Park provide an unsettling reminder of how far we still have to go to ensure our schools and society are LGBT inclusive. However, the delicate climate in which schools have to operate has been made much more difficult by the Department for Education. As a matter of urgency, the Department should provide greater moral and regulatory advice and assistance for schools undertaking their legal duties in promoting acceptance of LGBT people, so that they feel encouraged and better supported in doing so.’

The Accord Coalition has consistently urged and warned the Government to ensure Relationships and Sex Education in schools promotes the acceptance of LGBT people. This includes when Parliament decided to make the subject mandatory and require the Government to produce statutory guidance on its teaching back in 2017, as well as in response to the Government’s later consultation on its guidance in 2018.The Government’s new statutory Relationships and Relationships and Sex Education guidance stipulates that primary schools must ‘… ensure that their teaching and materials are appropriate having regard to the age and religious backgrounds of their pupils’ (p24), but places no requirement on primary schools to teach about LGBT people and fails to make clear all schools should promote the acceptance of LGBT people.

In February this year Accord co-organised with Humanists UK and the Sex Education Forum an open letter from 54 religion and belief leaders, educationalists and LGBT rights advocates urging the Department for Education not to dilute rules requiring independent schools to cover LGBT content. In July Accord co-organised with the British Muslims for Secular Democracy an open letter from 78 civic leaders calling for greater action from the Government in support of LGBT inclusion in schools.

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