In a YouTube clip published last year, the softly spoken Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett takes to the stage, apologises for delaying lunch, stutters slightly – saying she has an entrenched fear of public speaking – before launching into an impassioned speech about the government’s “totalitarian endeavour to indoctrinate our children in sexual ideologies”.
Godfrey-Faussett, who describes herself as a chartered psychologist and Muslim academic, is the latest voice entering the tinderbox row over LGBT lessons in Birmingham schools.
The debate has so far led to the removal of hundreds of children from school by parents staging weekly protests against lessons they claim promote LGBT lifestyles.
Despite that hesitant start, Godfrey-Faussett has delivered this performance before at locations around the country, normally to Muslim parents, as part of Stop RSE, her campaign against relationship and sex education lessons in schools.
A petition she set up with the same message has more than 114,000 signatures and her campaign has been discussed in parliament.
Godfrey-Faussett’s next stop is the deprived area of Alum Rock in Birmingham, which has become the centre of this issue, where she will be a guest speaker at an event due to be attended by protesting parents of children at the largely Muslim Parkfield community school. It has been organised by the parents’ community group.
Parkfield’s assistant headteacher, Andrew Moffat, devised the No Outsiders lesson programme with an ethos to promote LGBT equality and challenge homophobia in primary schools. The programme has been suspended indefinitely, but on Thursday, parents at the school resumed protests, claiming the lessons were still being taught. The school has denied this.
Politicians have entered the fray, with 50 Labour MPs writing to the education secretary, Damian Hinds, demanding the government makes LGBT education a legal requirement rather than a recommendation, saying otherwise schools will continue to come under intolerable pressure from a small minority of parents.
Labour’s James Frith, who is coordinating the campaign, said the MPs were “concerned by the actions of a small minority of vocal individuals who are deliberately spreading misinformation among parents; whereas we know that in reality, the vast majority of parents strongly support the introduction of statutory PHSE [personal, social, health and economic education]”.
His fellow MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has urged the prime minister to condemn the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, over comments she made about LGBT education in a radio interview.
Speaking to LBC, Leadsom said parents should decide when their children were “exposed” to the lessons.
Into this delicate impasse comes Godfrey-Faussett. She calls LGBT rights taught in schools “a social engineering programme to corrupt our children”, claiming “they are trying to split parent from child”.
She will appear on Saturday at the Noshahi Kashmir centre in front of the lead campaigners. If her address is along similar lines to her YouTube speech, it will include the claim the government’s RSE curriculum is an “assault on the family” and a “war on morality”, where children’s innocence is being destroyed.
“The government, in their wisdom, somewhat misplaced, think that all children due to the societal ills such as teenage pregnancy and pornography need to learn this in schools as a form of safeguarding,” Godfrey-Faussett says in the 13-minute clip, which has been watched more than 36,000 times.
“Parents have very little rights because the state has made it compulsory.”
Amir Ahmed, from the group that has organised the conference and has been instrumental in the campaign to help suspend No Outsiders lessons at a number of schools across Birmingham, said there needed to be an open debate about RSE lessons.
“This conversation has so far been heavily biased and we welcome the discussions. Kate’s thoughts on RSE will give parents another insight and will allow us to challenge the way our families are being asked to conform,” he said.
Godfrey-Faussett, who converted to Islam 25 years ago, began looking into the government’s overhaul of RSE – which meant children would be taught about healthy adult relationships from the age of four, with sex education made compulsory in all secondary schools – about a year ago.
She says she has worked “therapeutically” with young people in schools.
In the same clip, Godfrey-Faussett, who follows the conservative Shia branch of Islam, talks about a wider concerted effort towards “kind of ‘queering’ the Muslim community”.
Godfrey-Faussett told the Guardian: “RSE and No Outsiders are different things – the former is becoming compulsory in all schools and the latter isn’t. StopRSE is focused on raising awareness of RSE.”
But the Muslim LGBT campaigner Khakan Qureshi, who runs the Birmingham South Asians LGBT group, is concerned about her visit, as is the LGBT charity Stonewall.
Qureshi said: “She was brought to my attention a few months ago. She appears to be very mild mannered, but the powerful words that she uses are incredibly dangerous.
“I’m not sure where she has come from and if she is really what she is portraying herself to be – she says she is nervous and not good at public speaking, but her words are so powerful. And that’s what really, really concerns me.
“It is a form of indoctrination and social conditioning. Things are escalating to the point where this will result in more conflict.”
Paul Twocock, Stonewall’s director of campaigns, policy and research, said the charity had been helping to mediate the conflict between parents and schools. He added that it was aware of three other schools where Godfrey-Faussett had contacted parents about RSE lessons as part of her campaign.
“We are concerned about [her] campaign because it is trying to drive a wedge between parents and schools, which is dangerous because we want to build a culture where people treat each other with respect and acceptance. Loads of schools have been doing this really well – faith schools, without any tension or clash with their faith,” Twocock said.
“What I know from conversations our education team have been having with some of the schools who have been running the No Outsiders programme, is that they have been targeted by the Stop RSE campaign. We know they are focused on No Outsiders as a programme and are using it as a opportunity to promote this alternative narrative, which is that children are under threat by talking about LGBT people, LGBT families, which we of course completely reject.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are making relationships education compulsory in all primary schools from 2020 to teach pupils the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds, starting with family and friends.
“The subject will teach children, in an age-appropriate way, about healthy relationships of all kinds and will help schools’ efforts to foster respect for other people and for difference.”