WATCH: Muslim parents protest London Primary School Sex Ed programme

A large group of Muslim parents protested outside Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets, East London, this week, saying the school is “sexualising” young children through its implementation of Relationship and Sex Education guidelines.  

After dropping their children off at school, up to 100 Muslim parents lined the pavement surrounding the school holding signs which read ‘Let kids be kids,’ ‘Educate don’t indoctrinate’ and ‘Don’t confuse our children’.

The parents were protesting over Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) lessons taught by the primary school and are of the belief that the content being taught is age-appropriate for their children. Tuesday’s demonstration is believed to be the first major protest outside a school by Muslim parents since high-profile protests which took place in Birmingham in 2019 over the teaching of LGBT relationships in primary schools, which were halted largely because of the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The programme in question the parents in East London are protesting about is Jigsaw, a PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) programme. Opponents of the programme say that it encourages children to keep the lessons secret from their parents.

Safe Schools Alliance UK has critiqued the programme, with the organisation saying that Jigsaw puts children at risk of abuse because of the secrecy it encourages.  The group states that: “From Year 1 onwards, children are told to keep the discussions during PSHE lessons secret from their parents. This is dangerous and puts children at risk of abuse. Children should never be told to keep secrets from their parents.”

Caroline Farrow on Twitter: “The parents in East London are protesting about Jigsaw. A PSHE programme that @SafeSchools_UK critique below. It encourages children to keep the lessons secret from their parents.


Outside the school, Muslim parents chanted “Respect our values” and “Let kids be kids”.

When asked by a reporter from 5Pillars UK, a Muslim news site, “What exactly are they teaching here that you object to?,” one emotional mother said she didn’t want to go into the details, but that the school was teaching “body parts and masturbating” to the children.

“I don’t want to go further down into the details […] but they’re teaching things that they shouldn’t be teaching children. They’re all innocent. They need to play [and] be happy. Teach them other things.”
The woman continued: “It’s literally sexualising children…you’re teaching them at a young age it’s ok for them to touch themselves. You know, it’s very hurtful for me to say these words, but I have to open myself up.”

Breaking down in tears, she detailed how her son at the primary school is autistic and she has serious concerns over the information being taught to him and how he will process it.

“As a mother […] I’m very afraid for my autistic son. My son can’t come home to talk to me, he can’t tell me what’s happening at school. I have no communication with him, that’s the hurtful thing. I told them [the school], ‘Can you have my children pulled out?’ He said, ‘No, that cannot happen.’ So it’s like my child has to [learn about] things that he doesn’t even understand.”

“And you feel as though the school’s just not listening to you?” the reporter asked, to which the mother responded: “No, of course not. The school is not listening at all. No consideration, no nothing.”

Another parent, a father, spoke over a microphone on behalf of the large crowd gathered. He recounted how his appeals to the school have continually fallen on deaf ears and demanded direct interaction and action from the school on the contentious issue.

“They’ve decided […] that they’re going to dismiss all the parents’ concerns. We’ve tried a number of times. So, we’ve sent letters […] and held a standing protest outside the school but as of yet, the school still hasn’t decided to engage with us. Our demands are very simple.”

He said that guidelines had been given to the school by the Department for Education (DFE) dictating what had to be included in the Sex Ed programme, but claimed that the school’s programme went far beyond what was statutory.

“The school has decided to go above and beyond that and include things that aren’t statutory. So we want the school to address the concerns of the parents, have a sit down with us, open that dialogue to say, ‘This is our concern. This is what we want addressed, and we’re within our rights, within the DFE guidelines to demand that.”

Addressing the parents gathered, the father added: “I want every parent here to understand that, you know, we are the primary carers for our children. So it is our right – it is our democratic right – to stand here and protest and say, you know, you are not going to decide what our children get taught without our consent. This is an important matter. We shouldn’t think ‘the school decides’. As parents, this is our decision and we want the school to address this.

Describing his perceived reluctance of the school to dialogue with worried parents, he said:
“We’ve tried a number of times to say, ‘Please, come and sit down with us’. Well, send a delegate. But they’ve chosen not to because they see that the parents [will] stand and make a statement, [will] stand and have their voices heard. If we stand united, they’ll take note. Otherwise it’s just individual parents, and they’ll put it down to [the] minority, because I’ve asked, and I’ve said, ‘How many people have written in?’ and they’ve said, ‘Only twenty’ when we know for a fact over sixty or seventy have gone in, and probably more so now.

“So the question is, why is the school deciding not to hear our concerns? Why are they including things that are not part of the curriculum according to the DFE?”

The parents are demanding that the school engages with them and speaks to them directly, something they claim has not been done despite multiple efforts on their part.

5Pillars News UK reports that they visited the school office and asked for a comment. In response, school administration said they had ‘no comment’ to give, but directed the Muslim news outlet to the Tower Hamlets Burrough Council press office.

When approached for a comment by 5Pillars following the protest, a spokesperson for Tower Hamlets said:“Tower Hamlets is a place where we celebrate our differences and see diversity as a strength. We want our schools to be places which champion this and make our children, and their families, feel welcome. We are also a place where we want our children to be safe, and the safety of our children is an important part of the Relationship and Sexual Education (RSE) curriculum.”

The male parent acting as spokesperson for the group of parents at the protest admitted that a big number of parents had lost trust in the school because of the continuing debacle.

“There’s a lack of trust now with the school. Up to now, we respect[ed] the school, we respect the teachers, they do a lot for our children. But why is there no transparency here related to this subject?

“We have a right to know what is being taught to our kids. We invest in our kids. We work 9-5 for our kids, so the school owes us that. The school needs to show the parents respect. I said this to the Headteacher the other day; I said he needs to come to the table. He needs to respect the [parents]. If he wants us to cooperate and not protest, he needs to give us that platform. At this moment, he hasn’t done that. He hasn’t reached out. So, I want to ask the headteacher and the school, ‘Why is it that you insist on not reaching out to the parents, not taking their concerns into account?’

“The point of the matter is we have to protest because this is all we have. This is the only avenue we have left. We’ve tried all other means, so I want to reach out to the school and say, ‘Look, we are here. We are concerned parents. You know, engage with us. Because up until this point, you haven’t engaged. You’ve dictated, you’ve said, ‘Look, this is what we’re going to teach and accept it’. We’re not going to do that. We have a right and we will exercise that.”

Another man, speaking over a megaphone at the protest said: “The reason why we’re here is to send a clear message to the school that this is not going to go quietly. This is not something that […] they can take lightly any longer. It’s only going to grow. We [will] continue this fight, we [will] continue making demands, [and will continue] to hold the headteacher accountable and hold the school to its standards as well.”

One couple visibly angered by the teaching at the school relating to sex education were filmed shouting: “Resign now! We want you to resign now,” in an unequivocal message to the headteacher.

With emotions clearly running high, parents joined in chanting ‘Our voice must be heard’.
It remains to be seen whether Tuesday’s large-scale protest is just the beginning of a wider movement, among Muslim parents especially, in schools across England.


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