A teacher at the centre of a protest by Muslim parents over his anti-homophobia lessons says he has received threats over his attempts at ‘preparing children for modern Britain’.
Andrew Moffat, 47, is one of ten finalists in the running for the $1million Global Teacher Prize after impressing judges with his work promoting tolerance in schools.
The Varkey Foundation, which runs the prize, highlighted his ‘No Outsiders’ lessons, which teach children not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, age, sexuality, gender identity, disability or religion.
Andrew Moffat (pictured on Good Morning Britain today) says that his lessons teaching children not to discriminate on the basis of sexuality and other factors of identity are preparing pupils for modern Britain
Muslim and Christian parents protested outside the school in Birmingham over Mr Moffat’s lessons and he says he has also received threats
Demonstrations outside the school (pictured) were held as parents accused Mr Moffat of intruding on their authority
The endorsement comes just a week after the lessons sparked protests from Muslim parents at Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, where he is assistant head.
Today Mr Moffat told Good Morning Britain that he had received ‘threatening’ emails over his lessons but added it felt ‘amazing’ to have been nominated.
‘You can have brown, black, white skin, be Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Jewish, be gay, lesbian, have disabilities, but we can all get on,’ he said.
‘I understand that some communities have tensions with the LGBT aspect. But we’re going to have work through them, because in the UK there are gay people – and that’s okay – that’s good.’
Some protestors said homosexuality was against their religion, while others simply said pupils were too young to learn about same sex relationships.
Yesterday, Mr Moffat, who is openly gay and has a partner, said his shortlisting has come ‘at the right time’ as it would raise the profile of his project.
The teacher has been targeted by protests outside the school in Birmingham due to tensions with Christian and Muslim parents who believe his classes undermine their authority
He told the Daily Mail: ‘It is absolutely wonderful and I can’t quite believe it. I’m absolutely overjoyed and thrilled.
‘This is about more than our school. This is a bigger picture. It’s about how do schools in the UK today teach children that there are different communities. How do we make sure that communities aren’t left out and certain groups aren’t ignored?
‘We can’t have children frightened of certain communities. This has come at exactly the right time for me because it has enabled me to talk about this.’
Mr Moffat acts as a Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) teacher at his school and has been teaching ‘No Outsiders’ since he took up his role in 2014.
As part of the lessons, children are taught about the existence of same-sex parents, through picture books such as ‘Mommy, Mama, and Me’.
The lessons are for every primary school year group – from aged four to 11 – and Mr Moffat stresses that they are appropriate to the ages of the children.
The teacher (pictured talking to his class) says he is thrilled to be nominated for the global prize but also spoke of receiving threatening emails as a result of his work
He said many of the parents protesting outside his school last week mistakenly think their children are being taught about sex.
‘There is no teaching about sex in No Outsiders,’ he said. ‘It is about teaching that all families are different and all families are welcome.
‘It sits within British values, community cohesion, personal development. We are teaching children to be proud of who they are and that they belong.’
Mr Moffat uploaded his lesson plans to the internet for other schools to use, and now travels the country providing staff training.
If he wins the prize, he hopes to use the money to expand the project and allow training in more schools.
Religious parents have argued that classes teaching children not to discriminate on the basis of sexuality risk sexualising children
Soon, lessons such as these will be mandatory in all primary schools, as the government is bringing in new compulsory ‘relationships’ education, which will include teaching tolerance of same sex couples.
The awards ceremony will be held on 24 March in Dubai, where homosexuality is illegal but officials usually turn a blind eye when it comes to tourists.
Mr Moffat said of his shortlisting: ‘It shows that the world is moving forward. And what we don’t want is for children in Birmingham to be left behind.
‘It’s a great city, a diverse city, where everyone needs to feel welcome. What we can’t have is pockets of society where you can’t be this, you can’t be that.
‘Children need to understand that we live in a diverse world and that is good.’
Birmingham-born Mr Moffat attended John Willmott School and then studied drama, English and American Studies at Derby University.
He was a youth worker before training as a teacher in 1995, and previously faced a backlash at a Christian school over his lessons on anti-homophobia.
His school, which is majority Muslim, is currently rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. In 2017, he was awarded an MBE for services to equality and diversity in education.
Mr Moffat (pictured at his school) is in the running for the prize over his work teaching children not to discriminate on the bases of sexuality, gender and religion
He was shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize from over 10,000 nominations and applications from 39 countries around the world.
Ofsted’s chief inspector has backed the nomination. School regulator chief Amanda Spielman said it was important for children to learn about all aspects of society.
She told the BBC that youngsters should know ‘there are families that have two mummies or two daddies’.
‘It’s about making sure that children who do happen to realise that they themselves may not fit a conventional pattern know that they’re not bad or ill,’ she added.
Mrs Spielman said a ‘middle ground’ needed to be explored, but lessons covering LGBT topics were important.
Christian and Muslim parents have claimed the lessons promote the personal beliefs of Mr Moffat, who is gay.
They also argue the classes, part of the PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) teacher’s No Outsiders programme, are against their religion.
The prize scheme, which has put the assistant head in the 10 teachers in contention for the million-dollar (£765,607) Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019, also teaches about gender identity.
In a video announcing the finalists, Hollywood star Hugh Jackman paid tribute to teachers as ‘real superheroes’.
He said: ‘When I was a kid there were lots of superheroes that I wanted to be. But I can tell you right now, from where I stand, with all my experience, the real superheroes are teachers – they’re the ones that change the world.’
At Mr Moffat’s school, more than nine in 10 students speak English as an additional language and his No Outsiders programme also teaches inclusiveness and diversity.
He told the BBC that parents who disagreed with it had been sending him threats and ‘nasty emails’.
Mr Moffat also runs the Parkfield Ambassadors after-school club, which creates opportunities for children at the school – where 99 per cent of pupils are Muslim – to meet people from different races, religions and cultures around Birmingham.
The winner of the Global Teacher Prize will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on March 24.
The other nine finalists teach in Georgia, Brazil, the Netherlands, India, America, Argentina, Australia, Japan and Kenya.