The Education Secretary has said that parents cannot veto children taking part in LGBT lessons, as he warns that “myths” are being spread about the content of the classes.
Damian Hinds’ intervention comes amid a row over Relationship and Sex Education classes (RSE), with several primary schools in Birmingham suspending the lessons following protests and petitions from Muslim parents.
Parkfield Community School, along with five primaries run by the Leigh Trust, postponed the "No Outsiders" programme where children are taught about same sex couples and gender identity.
Mr Hinds has now weighed in to support headteachers, saying that while they should listen to parents’ views, they should not allow them to dictate what is taught at school.
Writing to the National Association of Head Teachers, Mr Hinds said: “I want to reassure you and the members you represent that consultation does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content.
“We want schools to consult parents, listen to their views, and make reasonable decisions about how to proceed (including through consideration of their wider duties) - and we will support them in this.”
Hundreds of parents have protested outside Parkfield Community School, saying that teaching children about LGBT rights and homophobia contradicts their Islamic faith.
Andrew Moffat, the assistant head at Parkfield Community School, designed the "No Outsiders" programme which aims to teach children about issues such as gender, identity and sexual orientation during RSE lessons.
Mr Moffat, who has been awarded an MBE for services to equality and diversity in education, said he has received threats from parents who oppose the course.
Mr Hinds said: “It is regrettable that myths and misinformation about the forthcoming relationships education changes in primary schools, circulated often by individuals with no links to the education system, are undermining the hard work of head teachers, and the legitimate right of parents to be consulted on what their children are being taught about relationships”.
Hazel Pulley, CEO of Parkfield Community School, has previously spoken out about the “untruths” that have been spread about the content of the classes. These included “using clay models or something to use or show the children something of a sexual nature” which she said the lessons “most certainly” did not feature.
While parents are allowed to withdraw their children from RSE lessons, they are only permitted to do so for the sex education sections and not for relationship education.
Learning about same sex couples would be part of the latter section, meaning parents who disagree with this are not able to remove their children from classes.