Press Release

Government to face Judicial Review over gender identity policies in primary schools

14 February 2022         Issued by: Christian Legal Centre

A High Court judge has granted permission for a Judicial Review of the government’s decision to uphold transgender affirming policies in English primary schools following a legal challenge from a Christian family.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, parents Nigel Rowe, 48 and his wife Sally, 47, had brought the claim against the Department for Education (DfE) following a four-year legal battle.

In 2017, the Rowes were forced to educate their children at home after their son’s Church of England primary school said that their children could be labelled ‘transphobic’ bullies for not being trans-affirming.

When the Rowes wrote to the Department for Education, calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case, they were told that the school’s treatment of two primary school children who had chosen to cross-dress and identify as the opposite gender ‘does not constitute education.’

In granting permission, Lord Justice Lane ruled that this decision is judicially reviewable on the grounds that transgender issues in schools are arguably a matter of education and therefore the responsibility of the state.

Secondly, the case will proceed on the ground that ministers failed to take account of the expert evidence presented to them by the Rowes, which shows that ‘trans affirming’ policies cause harm to young children.

Evidence ignored by the DfE said that trans affirming policies in primary schools may lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’ for gender-confused children.

The Judicial Review hearing, now expected to take place within the next 3 months, is believed to be the first time that the High Court will rule on the substance of the alleged harm transgender affirming policies may have on primary school children.

Responding to the outcome in a joint statement, Nigel and Sally Rowe said: “We are delighted and relieved that after a four-year battle our crucial case will be heard.

“Many try to make light of this issue by suggesting it is just about boys dressing up. This case is about a dangerous ideology that is now firmly embedded in schools, local authorities, and Church of England leadership, and which is causing serious long-term harm to thousands of children.

“Six-year-old children have to be reminded to brush their teeth let alone make decisions about whether they are a boy or a girl. It is therefore immoral to think that they can make such life-changing decisions at such a young age. As a society we are called to protect children, and these guidelines and the culture they are embedding in primary schools is achieving the opposite.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “We are pleased that the government will face a Judicial Review on this crucial case for parents and primary school children across the country.

“This case goes to the heart of what education is and how primary school children must be protected from harmful and unscientific transgender ideologies in every part of education.

“Nigel and Sally Rowe were the first parents to courageously take a stand against trans ideology in our schools. They exposed the confusion and untruths being embedded in primary schools which have since developed into a public health crisis.”

Labelled ‘transphobic’

In 2017 the Rowes, from the Isle of Wight, were the first parents to expose the impact trans affirming policies known as the Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidelines were having on UK primary schools.

The policies provide schools, teachers, and governors, with guidance on how transgender ideology can be embedded into the fabric of a schools’ culture.

The Policy suggests how to implement gender neutral toilets, encourage schools to accept cross-dressing and gender transition without question, and include links to controversial groups such as Mermaids.

Published in 2015 by campaigners for transgenderism, the guidelines’ legitimacy has significantly risen after being held up as best practice by other schools and local authorities, and even the Department for Education since 2018.

When children began cross-dressing in their son’s school Nigel and Sally were given the choice of either affirming transgenderism, which they believe is harmful, or being labelled as ‘transphobic.’

Because they were unable to approve of the trans affirming approach, their sons were forced to leave the school.

Since then, they have had to home educate both their children for the past four years. They believe they have been subsequently vindicated as the damaging impact of trans ideology in education continues to be exposed.

The decision followed their six-year-old son coming home from school confused that a boy in his class had begun inconsistently wearing a dress and identifying as a girl.

Their eldest son had faced a similar issue two years previously at the same school and had to be withdrawn.

Mrs Rowe has spoken of how positive the experience of home schooling has been, but also of the significant sacrifices she has made in order to home school, this has included giving up her teaching career to protect her children.

The Rowes believe parents who disagree with trans ideology (whether Christian or not), have been placed in an impossible situation. They either have to home school or risk their young children being indoctrinated in state education by an ideology that extensive evidence shows causes children harm.

They are calling for the Cornwall Guidelines to be removed and for Christian beliefs on the issue of gender to be respected and tolerated in state education.

‘Have to accept it’

Meeting with the head teacher of the Church of England primary in 2017, the Rowes were told concerning a child that wanted to ‘transition’ that: “if a child wants to do that then we just have to accept it.”

The headteacher added that she could lose her job if she did not follow the guidelines.

Following the meeting, the Rowes set out their concerns in a formal letter asking what measures were in place to support all children in a primary school environment when a child chooses to change their gender.

They also contacted the Diocese of Portsmouth and the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer. In response, the school, having taken advice from the Diocese of Portsmouth and citing the Cornwall Guidelines, defended its behaviour.

The school also justified its position based on ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ , the Church of England’s guidance on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

The school said it had policies to tackle “transphobic behaviour”, which included an inability to believe a transgender person was a “real” female or male; refusing to use the person’s adopted name or using “gender inappropriate pronouns”; and feelings of discomfort and an inability to trust or connect with someone based on their transgender status.

The school added that they did not “require any formal medical/psychological assessment and reporting when a pupil seeks to be treated as transgendered.”

It said it was working “at every stage” with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (TPHT) in supporting transitioning children at the school.

The school stated that “the close contact with these agencies will ensure that we act appropriately at any given stage as children move through the school.”

Since this letter in 2017, TPHT, which runs the UK’s only gender identity development service for children, has been rocked by scandal with numerous cases citing the danger the Trust poses to the well-being of young children.

Since the Rowes’ ground-breaking story broke, the impact of trans ideology has escalated to the point primary school children are now being encouraged in Scotland, for example, to change their gender without their parents’ knowledge.

Furthermore, in the past decade, the UK has seen a 3,000 per cent spike in children being referred to gender identity clinics.

Expert reports

Following the response from the school, the Rowes withdrew their son and began to build their legal case by instructing experts to report on the impact transgender affirming policies have on young children.

Despite many experts in this field being silenced by trans activists, Mr Rogers, a consultant psychologist with 30 years’ experience in the field of psychology, reported on the dangers transgender affirming policies have on young children.

His report stated that the Cornwall Guidelines places emphasis on ‘equalities legislation,’ while: “research and the needs of young people were ignored. The policy showed little or no appreciation for the safety and welfare of children and adolescent or their developmental needs. The approach of the guidance was ‘as if’ the children were fully mature adults.”

The report also stated that the guidance “contains no warnings of the effects of transgender medication, many of which were understood at the time the document was produced and additional ones that are now accepted, even by the NHS.”

He added that the guidance “shows no understanding of the effects of puberty or the process of adolescent development, or its role in this change’, and that it ‘appears to miss the role of child and adolescent development, the normal variations in gender and sexual development or the concept of ‘safeguarding.’”

Mr Rogers also made the crucial point that 88% who experience gender dysphoria as children by their mid 30s, will no longer suffer from gender dysphoria.

‘Catastrophic outcomes’

Dr Paul Rodney McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, reported on the long-term physical consequences that can occur because of an overly affirming approach to transgenderism, such as is set out in the Cornwall Guidelines.

Dr McHugh concluded his report stating that: “Policies which affirm a child in their gender confusion without requiring psychological evidence are highly damaging to the children involved.”

He added that “leading experts in the area of psychiatry and paediatrics argue that abundant scientific evidence exists showing that transgender-affirming policies do none of the children they are meant to serve any real or lasting good; that it harms the vast majority of them; and that it leads to catastrophic outcomes for many such afflicted children.”

“There is no other area in medicine where we unconditionally allow children to choose their own diagnosis.”

Calls for intervention

In 2020, the Rowes lodged a formal complaint with supporting expert reports to the DfE calling on the Secretary of Education to intervene in their case and to review the use of the Cornwall Guidelines in primary schools.

Despite the scientific evidence and expert reports not being disputed, the DfE refused the request in July 2021 stating that: “The Secretary of State has found no evidence to suggest that the school’s action, at the time, posed a risk to any child at the school, including Mr and Mrs Rowe’s two sons. The evidence reviewed also suggests that the school’s approach regarding gender identity was focused on the wellbeing of pupils.”

Wholly disagreeing with the government’s position, the Rowes faced no alternative but to pursue a judicial review.

Notes for editors

Expert reports:

Pre-action letter

Letter from the school

Images of Nigel and Sally Rowe

Video interview:

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