The No Outsiders programme was created in 2014 by Andrew Moffatt, the assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham. This programme made a big impact upon primary schools across England this summer which also helped award Andrew with an MBE for his work in equality education. Originally The ‘No Outsiders’ name was in fact inspired by a South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu who quoted “Everyone is an insider, no matter their beliefs, whatever their colour, gender or sexuality” (2004). Mainly the intention of the initiative was to enable kids in primary schools to learn more about the characteristics protected by the Equality Act (2010) – such as sexual orientation and religion. This was a really interesting topic for me during my university degree, choosing to create a television news package based around the ‘No Outsiders’ programme.
Here is the link if you wish to view: My No Outsiders Link
I was lucky enough to have personally met with Andrew to discuss the thought process behind the initiative. This programme also inspired Moffat to publish a book titled ‘No Outsiders in Our School: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools’ which explains exactly what the programme is about.
Although like any campaign it was met with controversy. The Alum Rock Community Forum is one of a few protestors full of parents whose children are enrolled in these schools who are against the programme. The issue was first brought up by a parent named Fatima Shah, who initially pulled her 10-year-old daughter out of the school speaking to the Guardian saying ‘It’s inappropriate, totally wrong’ regarding the children being too young to learn about same-sex partnerships. Now there is over 400 signatures inside their petition for the scheme to be dropped, these community members wish to return to Section 28. Since then there has been over 600 children getting pulled out of these lessons due to complaints and protests. These regular protests outside school gates led to the programme being suspended until a resolution is achieved.
Despite the programme being heavily linked with Andrew’s own personal experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a vocal influencer as an equality activist, the No Outsiders is not just about battling homophobia. Attempting to challenge all stereotypes Moffat told me during our talk that ‘we can’t stop teaching about equality, we’ve got to find a way to teach equality in an inclusive way that involves everyone’. Highlighting that the No Outsiders covers a range of topics under the Equality Act (2010) Andrew went on to say, ‘We can’t just say we will miss out disability or miss out LGBT or miss out age you got to talk about everyone’. An example of this is one of the books used in the programme includes stories about a dog that doesn’t feel like it fits in and a boy who likes to dress up as a mermaid. This brought on complaints in regard to the scheme not being ‘age appropriate’ for the way it represents same-sex relationships.
As an LGBTQ+ activist myself, I for one support the movement, especially after my previous experience teaching in schools, it really is a step forward. This is a new era where you can be whoever you want to be and express yourself however you want to. I wish schools were like this during the time I was growing up. Most recently being talked about during episode 5 (29:00 – 32:00) of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, the drag queens discussed their own personal experiences growing up being gay. This led to Divina de Campo (stage name of Owen Richard Farrow) addressing the No Outsiders programme, giving the other drag queens an insight of his experience studying and working in a school. Divina said, ‘Section 28 stops the promotion of homosexuality, which meant it couldn’t even be spoken about, so it just erases gay people completely’. After this Divina spoke about how it all changed once he returned as a teacher. Stating that the kid’s attitudes are completely different, despite working in a number of schools teaching the roughest kids, Divina recalls one special moment that showed the shift in school children’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Divina went on to say when he was a teacher he was once called “a fucking faggot, you’re a fucking queer” by a girl storming out of the classroom into which the other children were outraged that she said that to him. This led to Divina emotionally expressing that “to say that kids act different now is to completely underestimate where we are”. This was a very emotional topic for Divina who was reliving his own experiences saying programmes such as the No outsiders made him feel like all those kids who are like him still had hope and weren’t going to have the same struggle he had. I was lucky enough to meet Divina during a concert for the ‘Frock Destroyers’ and Divina is one of the kindest and greatest role models for kids today who are questioning their sexuality and struggling to accept who they truly are.
Here is a gallery of the topic being discussed on RuPaul (source BBCIPlayer) and a picture of me meeting Divina too.
Mainly being a religious based problem, Muslim communities aren’t happy with their children being exposed to homosexuality at such a young age. This is because it is highly disregarded within the religion therefore do not want it encouraged in school such as Parkfield and Anderton Park Primary School. I was lucky enough to have sat down with the headteacher of Anderton Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson to discuss what it was like to experience such protests outside her school. Sarah expressed her displeasure with the protests saying it is ‘embarrassing, frustrating, it’s crushing and an abuse of power’. This is regarding the lead protester Shakeel Afsar who led weekly protests, despite being, labelled ‘peaceful’, the use of a megaphone and a sound-boosting PA system by Afsar were disrupting lessons and meant children were unable to use the playground. Since taking this to court it was ruled in favour of an exclusion zone to remain around Anderton Park after it has been targeted by protestors for months. Despite having no children in the school Shakeel still continues to protest about the No Outsiders programme being taught in Anderton. Sarah went on to say, “in our school, like any other school in the land we say some people have two mommies, some people have two daddies and its okay to be gay and he’s (Shakeel Afsar) very angry about that”.
Despite it being looked down upon inside certain religions, there are a variety of activists who support the No Outsiders inside groups such as the Muslim community. I was able to speak to Khakan Qureshi who is the founder of the Birmingham Asian LGBT Organisation about cultural acceptance and his aim to achieve equality inside a Muslim community. Khakan explained his own upbringing to me living in a Muslim household stating that the holy book for Muslims named the Quran teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Although this being a common thought, Khakan discussed that, “within my research and understanding talking to other people it does not actually state that anywhere at all”. We went onto discuss the protests where Khakan highlighted that those who are driving the protest might have other motives and need to step away and reflect on what they’re doing. Fearing about the consequences these protests will have upon the children stating, “I feel like if they (children) go home the very thing that they’re protesting about i.e. homosexuality they will begin to ask what this means and why are they protesting against it”.
Overall from my own experiences researching and learning more about the No Outsiders programme it really shows the cultural shift in schools today. Now entering a new decade, it really encourages children growing up to be who they want to be and can achieve with endless possibilities. Hopefully this article has given you some insight into the No Outsiders programme as a whole and encourages you to learn more about what is being taught in your schools today.
I would like to thank Andrew, Sarah and Khakan for taking time out of their busy schedules to have met with me and talked me through what the No Outsiders programme means to them. This programme really has changed the landscape of education for the better and I look forward to hearing what the future holds for the No Outsiders programme.