‘Wall of silence’ on trans guidance ‘puts schools at risk’

Primary school pupils, staff and governors at a Gateshead school are being left isolated and vulnerable by the Department for Education (DfE) more than a year after it was called on to stand behind its own guidance on teaching contested political issues like transgenderism.

A parent governor wrote to the Department in July 2022 to complain that the school’s trans-affirming Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy – drafted in early 2021 – breached education law and her concerns had been ignored by the school.

Having taken over a year to respond, the DfE replied on 14 September only to say that it could not fully consider her complaint until it had finished revising transgender guidance for schools.

Read the press release

Fobbed off

Guidance has been repeatedly delayed while the Government seeks legal advice to determine whether legislative change is required. A review of statutory guidance on RSE is also underway.

The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly branded the response “an unacceptable fobbing off”.

“The DfE do not need to wait for new guidance. The law is already perfectly clear that a Governing Body must forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.

“Furthermore, there is nothing in the law that requires schools to affirm children in their gender confusion. In fact, this risks causing long-term harm.


Mr Kelly continued: “This is an urgent safeguarding issue. For over two years now, pupils at the Gateshead school have been put at risk by being encouraged to question the reality of their biological sex. Staff and the governors themselves are vulnerable to legal action. And yet this troubling policy remains in place. For how much longer?

“Every week we read another story of a child transitioning, often egged on by schools who believe that is what they have to do. Pupils and teachers alike feel under pressure to use false pronouns or be accused of ‘transphobia’ and ‘misgendering’.

“Much of the time parents are ignored or excluded from conversations despite such practices impacting all pupils, not just the ones experiencing gender confusion.

“Yes, guidance is urgently needed, but schools also need to be told, ‘This is what the law says now: Do not teach contested ideologies as fact.’”

Read the DfE’s letter to Susan (redacted)

Legal win

The parent governor, known as Susan, was dismissed by her school’s Governing Body in June 2022 for raising concerns with the trans-affirming sex ed policy at her children’s primary school.

Following a legal case backed by The Christian Institute, the Gateshead mum was reinstated following an order made by the High Court in June 2023.

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‘Susan’ (not her real name), was granted anonymity by the Court in order to protect her children. She reached a legal settlement with the school after being kicked off its Governing Body for pointing out legal errors in its Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy.

School lesson plans, challenged by Susan, included activities that:

• encourage children to question their own gender identity;
• encourage talking about any concerns pupils may have with outside groups – but failed to mention parents;
• use the discredited ‘Genderbread Person’ graphic, teaching children that ‘gender identity’, ‘gender expression’ and biological sex can all be different and exist anywhere on a scale from 0-100; and claims that being a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ is determined by personality, hobbies and clothes – not biology.


Her concerns were dismissed by the Governing Body which then removed her in June 2022, triggering a five-year ban on serving as a governor in any school in England. In keeping with the school’s complaints process, she subsequently escalated her complaint to the DfE.

Fourteen months later, in a letter dated 14 September 2023, the DfE told Susan: “Those aspects of your complaint that relate to the Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (RSHE) cannot be considered until the department has clarified the guidance for schools on gender identity matters”.

Susan said: “The DfE isn’t just failing me, it’s failing children, parents and staff. Children presenting as transgender raise huge health, social, practical and moral issues for teachers and fellow pupils alike. Staff and governors have little, or no training in how to respond.

“It’s time for Ministers to consider the life-long damage that might be done to a child with the unwitting encouragement of their school. They also need to consider the impact this is having on school cohesion. These policies don’t just harm trans children, they threaten the safety and wellbeing of all students.”

Delayed guidance

In March, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised guidance for schools in England would be issued for the summer term. In July, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told the Commons that it would be delayed, subsequently informing MPs this was for further consultation after Attorney General Victoria Prentis suggested that changes to equality law would be required.

However, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch has rejected claims that legislation is required to prevent children from ‘socially transitioning’ in school.

With England’s new school year only a few weeks old, the CI is backing Susan’s call for school governors to thoroughly review their own schools’ RSE policies.

In 2022, the Institute helped more than 200 Christian parents, teachers and school governors with tailored, practical advice on dealing with issues including the Equality Act, sex education, Religious Education and LGBT ideology.

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