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Tory leadership: Esther McVey says ‘parents know best’ on LGBT lessons

Reiss Smith May 30, 2019
Esther McVey smiling as she walks in 10 Downing Street

Esther McVey arrives at 10 Downing Street. (Leon Neal/Getty)

Esther McVey has waded into the row on LGBT-inclusive education in Birmingham schools, as she sets out her manifesto for the Conservative party leadership.

The Tory MP is one of 11 MPs vying to become party leader and consequently Britain’s next prime minister.

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning (May 30), she said that teaching young children about LGBT relationships is a matter for parents.

“I believe parents know best for their children,” she said. “While they’re still children—and we’re talking primary school [age]—then parents need to have the final say.

“Parents need to have the final say.”

—Esther McVey MP

“If parents want to take their young children out of certain forms of sex and relationship education then that is down to them.”

Esther McVey criticised by Labour and Tories

The row over LGBT-inclusive education has been ongoing since March, with parents from mostly Muslim communities staging protests outside of schools and withdrawing children from lessons which mention same-sex relationships—but not sex.

Welsh Labour & Co-op MP Stephen Doughty said that McVey’s choice of words serves to help legitimise common misconceptions about the dispute.

Protestors outside of Parkfield School, Birmingham
Parents demonstrate against the No Outsiders programme at Parkfield Community School on March 21 in Birmingham. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

“The Tory leadership contest seems to be shamefully descending into a competition of who can out-right wing each other by promoting intolerance against the LGBT+ community,” he told PinkNews.

“McVey ignorantly helps legitimise the myths around relationships and sex education, at the same time that Dominic Raab has targeted the trans community.

“What a terrible message to send to young people growing up LGBT+.”

—Stephen Doughty MP

“What a terrible message to send to young people growing up LGBT+.”

Birmingham schools forced to deny that children are being taught about sex

Parkfield School, the site of the first wave of protests, has been forced to deny that children were being given lessons on gay sex. Rather, they were being taught about different types of relationships, including same-sex ones.

“It’s very clear that we would never, ever discuss sexual activity with very young children at all,” Hazel Pulley, the school’s CEO, told BirminghamLive on March 27.

Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall compared the dispute to the row around Section 28, which outlawed conversations about same-sex relationships in schools when it was introduced 30 years ago.

“Teaching children about LGBT+ families is hugely important,” she told PinkNews. We were set up in 1989 to oppose the introduction of Section 28, a devastating piece of legislation which came about due to divisive debates.

“Today’s conversations about LGBT-inclusive education echo those messages from back then. Inclusive education ensures children from LGBT+ families see themselves reflected and know there is a place for them in society.

“It also helps all young people grow up knowing there’s nothing wrong or unusual about being LGBT+ and helps prevent the anti-LGBT bullying that remains widespread in our schools.”

“Now, more than ever, we need everyone who cares about equality to show their support to make the world a better place for every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person.”

Birmingham school row mediation breaks down

On Thursday (May 30) it was revealed that attempts to mediate between parents and officials have broken down.

Human rights lawyer Nazir Afzal, who was brought in to broker an agreement between the two sides, has placed blame squarely at the feet of Government.

“The Government has been cowardly,” he told BirminghamLive.

“They have failed to lead and own this issue (around equality teaching), leaving the burden unfairly on the shoulders of head teachers. It is disgraceful.”

In a separate interview with Sky News, he added: “I’ve looked at the curriculum, there is nothing in the curriculum that is LGBT specific. There is nothing about gay sex.”

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