Our thanks to Shelley Charlesworth for her investigation into the origins of the No Outsiders programme and for this excellent analysis of its materials and message to primary age children.
Shelley Charlesworth is a former BBC News journalist. An active second wave feminist, her energies are now spent promoting the entirely reasonable idea that is not possible to be born in the wrong body. She has two adult children and five grand children. Twitter: @charlesworth102
No Outsiders : Queering the Primary Classroom
The parent led revolt over the teaching of the No Outsiders programme at Parkfield Community School, a Birmingham primary with a 98% Muslim intake, shows no sign of going away. At least five schools in the area which had been teaching the programme have now, like Parkfield, suspended it while consultations take place with parents. The protests are said to have spread to other cities, with Muslim parents saying they do not want their primary school children to be taught about LGBT issues.
There has been little sympathy for the parents. They’ve been described as bigoted and homophobic. Protesters were called “homophobic extremists” whose views were likened to vitriol.
Press coverage has been largely supportive of the school, and Andrew Moffat, assistant head teacher and the author of the No Outsiders programme, who has been awarded an MBE for services to equality and diversity in education.
Columnists, celebrities and MPs across the political spectrum have come out in support of Moffat. One unifying theme is that they see an equivalence between the protesters’ demands and Section 28. 
Alice Thomson, writing in the Times says with reference to Section 28 ‘When it was overturned in 2003, I never thought the question would be reopened.’ She goes on to say that teachers will be asked, under new DfE guidelines, to teach respect for ‘different types of families, relationships and sexual identities, including same-sex relationships and transgender.’ 
The columnist and Labour Party member Owen Jones weighed in expressing what became a standard reaction: ‘The parents at this Birmingham school are trying to stop lessons educating pupils about the existence of gay people. To suggest that isn’t “age appropriate” is the same argument used to justify Section 28.’ It’s powerful and emotive stuff but the comparison to the imposition of Section 28 and the fear and hatred that that led to isn’t helpful. Government now is not trying to prevent teaching about homosexuality, different families, different relationships. Quite the opposite in fact as shown by the new government guidelines due to be implemented in September 2020 for teaching sex education. It has also led to a lack of curiosity about the origins and content of the No Outsiders teaching resource itself.
Ofsted inspectors visited Parkfield school on February 13th 2019 over concerns about ‘aspects of the effectiveness of leadership and management in the school.’
On March 5th, they gave the school a clean bill of health noting only that more effort should be put into engaging the parents and explaining the curriculum. The No Outsiders programme was not mentioned at all. Teaching on PSHE was deemed good and of the very public expressions of anger with No Outsiders the inspectors had only this to say:
“However, a very small, but vocal, minority of parents are not clear about the school’s vision, policies and practice. This group of parents feel that staff do not sufficiently listen to their concerns. Their view is that the PSHE education and equalities curriculum focuses disproportionately on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues and that this work is not taught in an age-appropriate manner. Inspectors found no evidence that this is the case.”
The Birmingham protests shouldn’t have come as any surprise given that lobby groups have been active and vocal in their resistance to the new DfE guidelines for teaching RSE. Earlier this year government ministers admitted that there had been significant negative response to the consultation from groups and individuals to a consultation on the new guidelines. Most of the concerns were around the question of age related appropriateness, the content and the teaching of LGBT issues. These lobby groups are not specifically Muslim, in fact some are – as they put it – from the Judeo-Christian tradition. North London in particular has seen a lot of quieter lobbying from orthodox Jewish schools. 
But while the Parkfield row overlaps in some ways with these other groups there is something specific about the school and its teaching of the No Outsiders programme. Listening to what the mothers have said when they are interviewed, rather than the men with megaphones, it’s clear that it’s the actual No Outsiders programme they don’t like.
Quoted in the Birmingham Mail in February Mariam Ahmed, who has two children at the school, said: ‘My little girl is four, she’s in reception and she came home asking me if it’s ok to be a boy instead of a girl, and has dressed up in her brother’s clothes. She is four years old.’ Another parent, Fatima Shah, mother of two who has been prominent in the campaign said of her 10-year-old daughter: ‘My child came home and told me am I OK to be a boy? 
For those concerned about the teaching of gender ideology in schools and particularly in primary schools these comments from mothers raise alarm bells. It’s clear that something beyond the reaction of a conservative parent body is being expressed. The actual content of the teaching programme needs closer scrutiny. Most commentators have accepted at face value what Andrew Moffat says about the No Outsiders programme: that it is both about teaching children that gays and lesbians exist – and that it is about equality and the 2010 Act.  In reality it is more complicated.
So what is the No Outsiders teaching resource? The 87-page booklet by Andrew Moffat No Outsiders in Our Schools: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools can be bought online for around £25.00. It is spaciously laid out, in black and white, and so the actual text explaining the ethos behind the project is sparse. There is some background into why the author thinks the subject needs to be taught, some background on Mr Moffat himself and a discussion about the difficulties teachers face coming out as gay or lesbian. The rest of the book, around half, contains the lesson plans and the books required for each one. There are five for each year from reception to year 6. These books are bought separately.
In the introduction Moffat refers to his 2007 book, Challenging Homophobia in Primary School: An Early Years Resource. In this earlier work his aim, he says, was to teach five year olds that gays and lesbians exist. This he now believes is unnecessary because children – due to greater openness and the visibility of gay characters on television – know this. What we now need to teach children he believes is that ‘homophobia once existed, but we don’t have it in our school today, and that to be a person who is gay or lesbian or transgender or bi-sexual is normal, acceptable and ok. Children also need to be learning that they may identify or may not identify as LGBT as they grow up, and that whoever they grow into as an adult is also perfectly normal and acceptable.’
This is quite a lot for small children to take on board.
Moffat then goes on to say that teaching about different sexual orientations is best done in the context of the Equality Act 2010. So, as well as teaching children about LGBT they should also learn that other differences are also welcome and protected: ‘different ethnicities, genders, gender identities, religions, ages and abilities.’ Further on in the introduction, again playing fast and loose with the specifics of the 2010 Act, he looks forward to children leaving primary school ‘happy and excited about living in a community full of difference and diversity, whether that is through ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or religion.’
In chapter 2, Moffat quotes the public sector Equality Duty (PSED) about the need to create a whole school ethos for his resource. The PSED aims to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people. The duty applies to the public sector and also others carrying out public functions. In other words, it covers schools and how they treat their employees. It is not about what to teach in school. But Moffat wants to link the two.
“The wording of this makes it plain to public bodies (i.e. schools) that promoting some of the protected characteristics of the EA while ignoring others is simply against UK law. So we cannot promote an ethos where people of diverse faith are welcome but people of diverse sexual orientation are not. Similarly, children need to be taught that this is the law, as when children eventually leave school and get a job, they will not stay employed for long if they say to black colleagues, “I am racist, so I don’t want to work with you!” or to gay colleagues, “As my faith says homosexuality is a sin, I don’t want to work with you.””
Parkfield school has a signing in system. It’s electronic and there’s a photo of it in the No Outsiders booklet.
Again, the actual 9 characteristics of the Equality Act have been confused and renamed, Sex has become Gender and Gender Reassignment has become Transgender identity. There are 6 posters around the school’s outside perimeter, with the same message, the same false reading of the Equality Act, the same promotion of ideas of gender identity.
Chapter 5 of the booklet deals with 12 questions he’s been asked, by parents, in relation to his teaching programme. He’s only ever been asked about teaching relating to challenging homophobia he claims, never about race, disability or other discriminations.
In answer to the question ‘How do I explain what “gay” means to my child?’ Moffat advises this answer:
“Gay” is when a man loves a man. “Lesbian” is when two women love each other. “Bisexual” is when a person can love both men and women. “Transgender” is when a person feels different from the body they were born into; we were all assigned a gender at birth and sometimes when we get a bit older we may feel differently about that. Some people say that there are “boy things” and some say there are “girl things” but we say this is not the case and boys and girls can do the same sorts of things if they want. Some of us will live as a different gender from the one other people chose for us; others may like to do things that some people think are “just for boys” or “just for girls.”
It’s worth looking at this answer in some detail. The teacher is asked by a parent how to explain the concept gay to a child. The first two answers are fine for a primary school child; love can stand in here for sexual attraction at this point. But Moffat goes on to answer two unsolicited questions about being bi-sexual or transgender. His definition of transgender is textbook gender identity theory with gender being “assigned” at birth. There is then another unsolicited digression, this time about sex stereotypes, with a simplistic explanation of boy things and girl things. Then he’s back to the transgender issue, talking about possibly living a different gender “from the one other people chose for us.”
Lucky the parent who could make sense of this at a busy parent’s evening or could begin to understand how a question about same sex attraction ends up being thrown into the fact free world of gender feelings and girl things and boy things.
Chapter 6 is titled Coming Out in Primary Schools. Here Moffat sketches his own history as a gay teacher and discusses the pros and cons of coming out as gay to the school body. It’s mostly upbeat and anecdotal and ends with an anecdote about the visit to the school of Gareth Thomas, the Welsh rugby international. When Thomas told a whole school assembly that he was also gay, Moffat recounts:
“Great – gay people are welcome in our school! There was one audible gasp from a child in year 6 but otherwise there was no reaction at all, which was quite nice as it demonstrated to the shocked child that he was alone in his reaction; his homophobia made him the outsider.’”
This casual name calling and othering of a 10 or 11-year-old boy in print, in a teaching resource, does not reflect well on Andrew Moffat.
The remainder of the booklet is the teaching plan. There are five books with corresponding lesson plans for each year group. Moffat says he’s not connected the lesson plans directly with the 9 characteristics of the Equality Act. He advises that while some books specifically support the LGBT strand, all the books can be used to ‘celebrate diversity in all its forms.’
But surely there should be some link between the stated intention that No Outsiders is a teaching resource about the 2010 Equality Act and the actual lesson plans themselves? After all that is what the booklet claims to be for.
I’ve read the 35 recommended books and correlated each one, where possible, with the 9 protected characteristics of the Equality Act. This was done on the basis of the content of each book. 17 books could be said to have a link to one of the 9 protected characteristics of the Equality Act.
They are listed here with the number of books that relate to them following in brackets.
Age (1) Disability (3) Gender Reassignment (4) Race (3) Religion or Belief (0) Sex (1) Sexual Orientation (5) Marriage and Civil Partnerships (0) Pregnancy and Maternity (0)
9 books can be grouped into just two of the protected characteristics, Gender Reassignment and Sexual Orientation, which possibly is what Moffat is referring to when he says that some books specifically support the LGBT strand. Parents have a point when they say the programme is weighted towards LGBT issues. To understand this, it’s important to look at the teaching plans that accompany each book. It’s here that children are guided towards an adult, gender identity reading of the text.
My Princess Boy is taught to year 6, though the language and imagery are pitched at a much lower age, possibly years 1 and 2. The learning intention is to promote diversity. The Princess Boy of the title is 4-year-old boy who likes pretty things, pink is his favourite colour. He wears girly dresses. Sometimes people are mean to him but his family all love him very much. The lesson plan tells teachers to ask the class if the Princess Boy feels like a girl or if he just want to wear dresses. The book does not say whether he does or doesn’t so the class is asked to make a judgement based on the book’s repetitive refrain that this is my princess boy who wears dresses and I love him very much. There is no way the class would know, but the idea that he might “feel” like a girl is being sown.
The teacher will then reveal that the book is actually based on a true story and the class will watch a 2011 interview from US TV with the author Cheryl Kilodavis and her son, Dyson, who was five at the time. The interview is interesting. At no point does the mother or Dyson claim he is a girl, he just likes wearing dresses. The interviewer asks him ‘Do you want to be a boy or a girl?’ Dyson replies boy. Dyson appears very young for his age, monosyllabic and very awkward. It’s an uncomfortable watch yet a class of ten and eleven year olds are viewing this as part of their school lessons and are being asked to make judgements. The question the interviewer asked is one of the suggested questions put to the class ‘Does Dyson want to be a boy or a girl?’
In the plenary session of the lesson there are these notes for teachers:
‘Say,…..”What does British law say about gender identity?” Refer to the seven characteristics on the Equality Act poster. Say, “Which characteristic is relevant to this story? (Gender identity) Ask, “How can we make sure we are following the law at our school?”’ (A reminder: Gender Identity is not a protected characteristic.)
Teachers are also advised that for specific lesson plans and books about Transgender awareness go to www.equalitiesprimary.com a link to Andrew Moffat’s website where he can be contacted for training, merchandise and books.
This example, My Princess Boy, shows in the clearest detail the problem with No Outsiders. Dyson is a child with some very visible issues. His mother acknowledges his gender non-conformity. She never says he is transgender. But the Parkfield children are being taught that this is what transgender is. His behaviour is called his gender identity and they are being asked to imagine if he feels like a girl.
The other books that come under the LGBT part of this course and promote the idea, in the text and the teaching notes, that you should be your authentic self, are about dogs, ducks, crayons. My Princess Boy stands out as it features a child, in this case a real one. Three of the books in the LGBT strand possibly straddle other categories (marriage and pregnancy) but are firmly set in gay relationships or being a gay dad. The learning intention in King and King, a story about two Kings who get married, for year 4s, states that it is to understand why people get married. The teaching notes however concentrate on same sex marriage and learning what gay and lesbian means.
The learning intention behind And Tango Makes Three in year 5 is to accept people who are different from me. The teaching notes emphasise gay couples. In the book two male penguins fall in love and want to hatch an egg. They do this and look after their chick together. This is another true though heavily anthropomorphised story. Teachers are advised to google ‘gay animals in zoos’ to show their class. As with My Princess Boy the use of a true story is used to drive home the message.
In the third book, The Odd Egg, for year 2s, a male duck wants to hatch an egg. The learning intention is to understand what makes someone feel proud. All the other birds in the story hatch eggs and produce their offspring, the owl has a baby owl, the ostrich a baby ostrich. The duck however sits on an enormous egg and hatches a crocodile who immediately calls him Mama. The children are taught that if the duck wants to look after a croc he should be allowed to and that all families are different.
The 8 books linked to Age, Disability, Race and Sex Equality are more straightforward and there is less dissonance between the text and the learning intentions.
This leaves 18 other books which are harder to categorise beyond saying they are about difference or discrimination and emphasise how, despite being different, we can all still get on. Two cover historical events, WW1 and WW2, one artistic freedom, one human rights. The issues of difference and cooperation are common themes for children’s literature and usually are taught as moral concepts rather than legal ones. Trying to shoehorn them into a resource which is teaching the Equality Act makes little sense.
The question of why the Equality Act was chosen by Andrew Moffat as a vehicle for his teaching programme remains. There is no legal requirement to teach it in the way that Moffat has chosen. The framework of the 9 protected characteristics is cumbersome. The suspicion must be that he is using the cover of the Equality Act to teach what is his main interest, LGBT, and within that, gender identity. The genesis of No Outsiders bears this out. While most commentators have repeated the line that he thought up or devised the programme himself, in the introduction to No Outsiders he acknowledges its origins:
“…a project that ran from 2006 to 2008, supporting primary school teachers to develop strategies to address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender equality in primary schools. The “no outsiders” project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and paved the way for this resource. Most of the ideas for this resource originated within those two years and I would like to thank that fantastic and brave team for starting me on my journey.”
The No Outsiders project began life in September 2006 at the University of Sunderland, led by Dr Elizabeth Atkinson and Dr Renee DePalma, with a grant of £575,435.85. It ended in December 2008. In addition to the academic staff 26 practitioner-researchers were recruited, working in 16 English primary schools. Details of some of the work that resulted from the project can be found on the ESRC website.  This screenshot gives a flavour of the published work.
The research report, citations and references all place the project within an influential academic area, namely queer theory.
One of those teacher researchers, recruited for the project, was Andrew Moffat. He was also one of the speakers at No Outsiders seminar at the University of Exeter in 2008 where he co-presented a paper with Dr Elizabeth Atkinson, the project co-leader. The title of the seminar was Queering the Body; Queering Primary Education. An excerpt from the blurb gives a flavour of proceedings.
“The team is concerned to interrogate the desexualisation of children’s and teacher’s bodies, the negation of pleasure and desire and the tendency to shy away from discussion of (sexual) bodily activity in No Outsiders project work. The danger of accusations of the corruption of innocent children…..has led team members to make repeated claims that this project in not about sex or desire – and that it is therefore not about bodies. Yet, at a very significant level that is exactly what it is about…”
Participants were promised answers to some radical questions:
There is an air of unreality about all this. ‘At what cost do we deny children’s and teacher’s sexuality? What do we lose if desire and pleasure are banned from the classroom? What is the place of the research team members’ own bodies, desires and pleasures in this research?’ Reading these questions, you have to keep reminding yourself that the bodies in question are those of adults and the children aged 5 to 11 who are in their care to learn.
It ties in with a thread that runs through the whole ESRC project; a strong feeling that teachers who are gay should be able to be their own authentic selves in front of their pupils (challenging heteronormativity they call it).
Dr Atkinson and Andrew Moffat’s paper was called ‘Bodies and minds: essentialism, activism and strategic disruptions in the primary school.’
Gendered Intelligence also played an important role in the research. The not-for-profit company has been working for the last decade in schools, youth projects and universities to promote ideas of gender identity and gender expression.  The founder, Jay Stewart, was brought in for the second year of the project to focus explicitly on gender identity and work with several of the project schools. Another of the teacher researchers in the ESRC project, Katie Salkeld, also took the lessons of No Outsiders into her own work as a primary school teacher. She spoke at a conference in 2010 organised by Gendered Intelligence about her work in introducing year 6s to transgendered identities. A film by Jay Stewart was shown at the same event. It was called Gender Variance in Primary Schools and was made as part of the No Outsiders project. (Salkeld continued the contact with Gendered Intelligence’s Stewart. He gave a talk on transgender issues in her school in 2015 according to the Mail). 
What stands out in the papers that are available from the ESRC project and the background theories they rely on is that there is no interest in the actual physical and psychological development of actual children. Quite the reverse in fact. Many of the authors, keen to subscribe the idea that childhood itself is a construction, also talk disparagingly of the ‘dominant discourses of childhood innocence’ and schools as places in which heterosexuality is performed. It is queer theory, one of the cornerstones on which the whole edifice of gender identity is built. 
There is no evidence that Andrew Moffat supported all of the ideas published by the University of Sunderland team but it is very clear that gender identity was a key part of the mix and that his subsequent ideas, as he acknowledged, stemmed from his participation in the project. In 2007 he published his first version of CHIPS, Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools, a series of lesson plans based on children’s books. An updated version was published in 2012 and is still advertised on Moffat’s website. 
A first outing for the programme at a pre-dominantly white school in Coventry went well according to Moffat. In 2009 he moved to a school in Birmingham with an ethnically mixed intake, the largest two being Christian Afro-Caribbean and Somali Muslim. He began by trying to get the school governors onside with his teaching programme. But this failed, they said no to it. So, he tried a different tactic. He used the texts anyway without informing the parents or governors and for some time he got away with it. He then decided that after being at the school for 4 years he would come out as a gay man, using a school assembly and a poster from the book King and King. It was at this point that parents began to complain. Moffat felt he had to resign. Although Moffat has admitted he was wrong to introduce the materials against the wishes of the governors and without informing the parents, his explanations for this are wholly to do with procedure and ‘pockets of homophobia’.
The CHIPS programme is concerned almost wholly with LGBT issues. But some of the texts go beyond challenging homophobia and move into teaching gender identity. The teaching plans attached to each book raise serious questions about Moffat’s judgement, his knowledge of the law, and his understanding of girls’ needs for privacy and boundaries. In Are you a boy or are you a girl? by Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher, a text for years 5 or 6, the learning intention is to consider how we use pronouns. The story by two transgender authors is clearly polemical. It tells the story of siblings Fiona and Tiny. While it’s clear Fiona is a girl we never know whether Tiny is a girl or a boy. Tiny refuses to say. Buster, the bully in the story who believes girls shouldn’t play football, demands to know if Tiny is a girl or a boy. The message is not just that sex stereotypes are bad but that it doesn’t matter if Tiny is a boy or a girl, that it is nobody’s business but your own to know what sex you are.
The teaching notes press the message home. Children are asked to question why we need pronouns. They are told to imagine Tiny joining their class and how they would have to reconsider using pronouns. The teacher is told to write ‘transgender’ on the board and to explain that it means feeling different inside from the gender you are ‘assigned at birth.’ The law is brought in to re-enforce the point and the children are told it is against the law to discriminate against a transgender person. Finally, pupils are asked to consider, if Tiny visited their school, which toilet Tiny would use and if Tiny is forced to choose one or the other would be that be discrimination?
This is straight from the trans activists’ handbook; pronouns and toilets. Children are told choosing them is just a matter of how you feel, that it is not important what sex you are. Years 5 and 6 will already be using single sex toilets as it is the law they must be provided for children from age 8. Some of the 10 and 11-year-old girls in these lessons will have started their periods and will need the privacy and protection of single sex spaces. They will have been subject to some sexual harassment and name-calling. This book and lesson plan take away any chance they have of being able to resist it for fear of being called a bully, of breaking the law, of being mean.
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert and Rex Ray is taught to year 6s, the final year of primary school in Andrew Moffat’s CHIPS programme. It tells the story of Bailey, who dreams about wearing dresses. Bailey is referred to as she throughout the book despite everyone, his mother, father and brother, repeating constantly that he is a boy. Only when Bailey meets an older girl, who offers to help make a dress, is Bailey’s dream of wearing a dress made reality. The book ends ‘Together the girls made two new dresses which were covered with mirrors of all shapes and sizes.’ The not-so subtle message being they could see their true selves in the mirrored dresses. The learning intentions are explicit; to consider what it means to be transgender. Pupils are told that they are all ‘…assigned a gender at birth.’
“Some people feel different to the gender they were assigned at birth; they live as the gender they identify with.”
The class then watches the CBBC documentary programme ‘I am Leo’ which is described as ‘very positive and perfect for understanding about life as a transgender child’. Leo tells viewers that he is an average 13-year-old boy apart from the fact he was born in a girl’s body. The programme never questions whether Leo might be a lesbian, never challenges his assertion that he knows what it is to feel like a boy, that he is a boy trapped in a girl’s body. He tells his audience of children that he found out about all this on the internet. Again, the class is asked what they would do if Leo came to their school and are reminded of the No Outsiders school ethos. Presenting this real-life story, a BBC documentary, in the first person as truth is compelling for children. No one is pointing out that Leo has got his facts off the internet, that it is not possible to be born in the wrong body, that he faces a life time of medication if he continues on this path. To show this film to year 6 children who have yet to go through puberty and understand how their growing bodies work is grossly irresponsible. It is gaslighting. It is promoting gender identity theory.
No Outsiders, like the duck’s egg, has been a long time in the hatching. It began in academia, in thrall to queer theory, and made its first and unsuccessful outing as a teaching resource to counter homophobia. It was refashioned as a way of teaching the Equality Act. But its links to gender identity theory have again been its undoing. Fatima and Mariam, the two Parkfield mothers quoted above, are right to be worried about its effects on their children.
What has happened at Parkfield school is horrible for all concerned. For the children who have to attend school in divisive and disruptive circumstances, for the parents who feel they are not being listened to, for the teachers facing protests and criticism while doing their jobs. Nobody wins. It’s also horrible for Andrew Moffat who has had to endure threats and homophobic name calling.
time he dropped the No Outsiders programme. Primary age children should be
given clear factual information about biological sex, sex differences between
girls and boys, about boundaries, respect and privacy. They should learn to say
no to bullying of all sorts, and practice respect for difference and diversity.
The rest can come later.
Transgender Trend’s position:
- We oppose discrimination against any group.
- We campaign only against the teaching of highly questionable queer theory and gender identity ideology as fact in the classroom.
Stonewall comment piece in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/31/dont-let-homophobes-reverse-20-years-of-progress
 BBC Radio 4’s Profile programme 6.4.2018 which featured Andrew Moffat is a good example.
 Gendered Intelligence’s website offers advice about make-up and binding for young people who are interested in their gender expression