Children's Commissioner Backs Anderton Park Primary School

11 June 2019, 14:06 | Updated: 11 June 2019, 14:08

Anderton Park School

The Children's Commissioner has given her backing to a primary school at the centre of protests around LGBT teaching, saying pupils have a right to take part in such lessons.

Anne Longfield said parents should not be able to take their children out of certain aspects of the curriculum, as she voiced her support for teachers at Anderton Park Primary School, in Birmingham.

The school has been at the centre of protests for 12 weeks, with demonstrators campaigning against the teaching of certain aspects of relationship education there.

On Monday a judge put in place a fresh interim injunction moving protesters away from the front gates.

Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has called for Education Secretary Damian Hinds to visit the school and discuss the current policy on relationships and LGBT education in schools.

She added: "The importance of this goes beyond Anderton Park, it goes beyond protests on my pavements, it's a British law issue."

Ms Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, was asked at an Education Select Committee on Tuesday whether there had been enough focus on the rights of children in the debate.

She told MPs: "No, I don't think there has. I've been pleased that people have come forward and said that the programme (of lessons) must go ahead and that the curriculum must be upheld but I think that needs to be said stronger and stronger."

She said she had been involved in campaigning for years for such lessons on relationships and sex education.

She added: "There can be no point where anyone, I think, parents or otherwise, start to opt out of that curriculum.

"It's not something we allow for any other aspect of the curriculum and it's something which those children have a right to be able to take part in.

"So I'm very clear on that, it needs to be stopped."

Asked by Labour MP Emma Hardy what the Office of the Children's Commissioner could do to show support, she said: "We can highlight how important these experiences are for children but also we can write to those individual schools, we can write to the authorities."

On the teachers who have faced daily protests, Ms Longfield added: "We can certainly add strength to their arguments around the necessity for those lessons."

Ms Longfield was questioned on a range of issues including knife crime, vulnerable children and her hopes for a new focus from the next prime minister.

She reiterated her calls for schools in areas of high violence to remain open into the evenings and at weekends in order to help support children in need.

Ms Longfield also said that while there have been steps taken to address knife crime, "the urgency that's needed and the operational follow-through and the plan that's needed just isn't there as far as I can see".

The commissioner said the UK's next leader has a "moral obligation" to build a new "framework of support" for vulnerable children across the country, adding: "I think it needs to be a mission, as I say an obsession, and I think within five years, 10 years, there could be a complete difference in what we're describing and what we're seeing in our communities.

"So the very vulnerable children be given the building blocks they need to be able to flourish and for me there could be no better legacy (for a prime minister) than that."