School targeted by protesters wins BPS community award

Ella Rhodes reports.

A Birmingham school which has been targeted by protestors over including LGBT people in the curriculum has received a British Psychological Society (BPS) award for its commitment to inclusive education. Anderton Park Primary school has experienced months of demonstrations by campaigners, including parents, over teaching LGBT-equality or even mentioning same sex relationships.

The head teacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, and staff of the school received the BPS Community Engagement Award at the 2019 Psychology of Sexualities Conference. Protests broke out outside the school’s gates after the government issued draft guidance on its new legislation on relationships and sexual education which will come into effect in 2020.

Hewitt-Clarkson told the Birmingham Mail that the school, even before this guidance, had been teaching the same equality ethos for many years. She also said the events of the last few months had ‘crushed her soul’, she and her team at the school have been receiving psychological support from Birmingham City Council’s crisis team.

Dr Adam Jowett, chair of the Psychology of Sexualities Section, said it had been an honour to present Hewitt-Clarkson with the award. ‘Inclusive relationship education is vital for promoting the psychological wellbeing of young children who may later identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT), as well as children who have same-sex parents or LGBT family members. LGBT young people are at a heightened risk of being bullied and experience poorer mental health as a consequence. Teaching children about different types of families and challenging gender stereotypes from a young age is key to tackling this. We fully support the work of Anderton Park School and their commitment to inclusive education deserves recognition by psychologists.’

In a statement Hewitt-Clarkson said she was delighted and humbled to receive the award. ‘Knowing others have been supporting us from afar has kept us going when it’s been tough. Equality is always appropriate; there is no age limit.’

Earlier this month the BPS published practice guidelines for psychologists working with gender, sexuality and relationship diversity. They are based on best practice and the literature in the area and may be useful in disciplines such as counselling, psychotherapy, psychiatry, medicine, nursing and social work.

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