LIFE for Andrew Moffat, above, assistant head at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, had recently been made a living hell by a group of mainly Muslim parents who accused him of ‘promoting’ homosexuality through an equality programme he devised called ‘No Outsiders’.
The school has been besieged by protesters, and Moffat has been threatened to such an extent that the police have become involved. Parkfield has received 80 formal complaints from parents objecting to Moffat’s programme.
But while protesters accuse him of being bad for their kids, it’s just been announced that Moffat is one of ten teachers from around the world who have been shortlisted for the $1-m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019.
He was selected from more than 10,000 nominations from 179 countries in recognition of his work promoting inclusivity and tolerance among schoolchildren, in particular for his ‘No Outsiders’ programme.
In recent weeks, however, Moffat’s school, which serves a predominantly Muslim community, has become the focus of demonstrations by parents worried that children are being taught about same-sex couples and gender identity when they are too young.
One mother, Fatima Shah, above, complained:
Children are being told it’s okay to be gay, yet 98 per cent of children at this school are Muslim.
Moffat, who is gay and was forced to leave his previous job because of a backlash over his sexuality, said he was delighted to have made it to the shortlist for the prize, which he hoped would give his work on equality and tolerance a global platform.
Asked about the protests, he said:
I’m quite pragmatic. We’ve got to find a way to engage parents on some issues that many find challenging. Yes, at the moment we are having challenges in my own school. But it’s about not running away from those challenges. What alternative is there?
Moffat, who was awarded an MBE in 2017 for services to equality and diversity in education, said there had been a misapprehension that his No Outsiders work was about sex education when it was about promoting social cohesion by teaching equality and helping children to become tolerant of difference.
Many parents have come to me to say this work is important and they support it.
Hazel Pulley, Chief Executive of the Excelsior multi-academy trust to which Parkfield belongs, paid tribute to Moffat’s success. “
It’s a tremendous outcome for Andy after all his hard work and dedication. It’s just such important work, enabling us all to live together and learning to accept difference.
Very sadly the school has got caught up in the debate around possible changes to sex and relationships education in 2020. Andy has had threats that were very unpleasant. The police are following certain lines of inquiry.
The prize was set up to highlight the important role teachers play in society, and the winner will be announced next month at a ceremony in Dubai during the Global Education & Skills Forum. The other finalists teach in Georgia, Brazil, the Netherlands, India, the US, Argentina, Australia, Japan and Kenya.
Announcing the shortlist, actor Hugh Jackman 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.
According to the BBC, Moffat was commended for his work in improving opportunities for pupils in a deprived part of Birmingham, in a school where most are from Muslim families and many speak another language at home.
UK Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, said the top ten placing of Moffat was:
Another appropriate moment to thank all our teachers for their dedication and exceptional work, day after day, for our children and our society, in their unique role.