Press Release

Parents slam Archbishop of Canterbury after he affirms transgender guidance for children

5 January 2023         Issued by: Christian Concern

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has rejected calls to scrap the Church of England’s (CofE) transgender guidance which affirms children as young as five in gender confusion.

In an open letter to the Archbishop, Nigel Rowe 49, and his wife Sally, 47, had called on the CofE to urgently scrap its  ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ (VAGC) guidance which covers 4,700 CofE primary schools.

The letter was sent following the Rowes’ legal victory against the Department for Education (DfE) in September, which led to a £22,000 settlement for legal costs and a commitment from the government to reform its transgender policies.

As part of the case, the parents presented international expert evidence to the DfE which revealed how trans affirming policies lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’ for gender-confused children.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the Rowes had taken legal action against the DfE after they and their six-year-old son were labelled ‘transphobic’ by a CofE primary school  on the Isle of Wight for refusing to ‘believe’ in transgender affirming policies.

The Rowes made clear in their letter to Justin Welby that when they raised concern with the CofE’s Portsmouth Diocesan Board of Education in 2017, the VAGC guidance was used to dismiss and shut down their complaints.

The Rowes raised alarm that the CofE was continuing to endorse the VAGC guidance which they said (page 20) says that children as young as five years old should be affirmed by Church of England schools if they wish to identify as the opposite sex.

This year, then Attorney General, Suella Braverman, stated that such a trans affirming approach taken by the school and the Church of England, is not supported by law.

A petition calling for the guidance to be scrapped has since been signed by over 15,000 people.

In response to the Rowes’ open letter and subsequent national media attention, last month the CofE’s chief education officer, Nigel Genders, published a contradictory statement on the CofE’s website claiming that VAGC in no way affirms primary school children in gender confusion.

However, on page 20 of VAGC, the guidance states:

“In creating a school environment that promotes dignity for all and a call to live fulfilled lives as uniquely gifted individuals, pupils will be equipped to accept difference of all varieties and be supported to accept their own gender identity or sexual orientation and that of others. In order to do this it will be essential to provide curriculum opportunities where difference is explored, same-sex relationships, same-sex parenting and transgender issues may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.”

This statement is on a page specifically addressing issues for CofE primary schools, and therefore the treatment of pupils as young as five years old.

The paragraph states that children as young as five: “should be supported to accept their own gender identity”. It also states that transgender issues “may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.” The next paragraph goes on to make this even clearer by saying: “Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision”. This section cannot be read as anything other than advocating for affirming children as young as five if they wish to identify as the opposite gender.

The VAGC guidance also states (on page 14):

“Schools must not discriminate (either directly or indirectly) against gender variant pupils, pupils who are perceived to be gender variant or pupils with trans parents. In the context of a school, indirect discrimination could include an inflexible uniform policy that creates a particular difficulty for trans pupils.”


Mr Genders also claimed in his statement that VAGC has been in no way influenced by transgender charity, Mermaids, who are now under investigation by the Charity Commission, following links to the endorsement of ‘chest binders’ and links to paedophilia.

In 2017, VAGC cited Mermaids (p.39) as a reliable source on transgenderism for the one million children under the CofE’s care across the UK.

Mr Genders said that the updated version of VAGC published in 2019 removed Mermaids from the guidance.

A story from 2019, however, demonstrates the damage the guidance had already done and continues to do in the legal cases where VAGC is used to justify the removal of Christians from employment.

In 2019, Mermaids was providing extreme training in the CofE primary school where Rev. Parker was governor in Essex.

The CofE director of education in the Chelmsford diocese, who answered directly to the now Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, refused to back Rev. John Parker after he raised serious concerns about Mermaids’ involvement in the school, saying: “Our schools must comply with the legal requirements of the Equalities Act 2010. Additionally, the Church of England, through its policy Valuing All God’s Children, gives guidance for Church of England schools.’

Without any support from the CofE, Rev. Parker faced no alternative but to resign.

In response to his resignation, Mermaids said to the Mail on Sunday: “We are surprised to see that a Church of England rector is complaining about our training when we are included in the C of E guidance on support for transgender people.’

LGBT charity, Educate and Celebrate, who are invited into Church of England schools and encourage staff to ‘smash heteronormativity’, promote the 2017 version of VAGC on their website.

Welby’s response

Despite the wealth of evidence, responding to the Rowes’ letter, Justin Welby has refused to meet to discuss their concerns and said that he is ‘in full agreement with Nigel’s recent statement’. He added that:

“The policy document ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ is integral to our vision for education and the wisdom, hope and integrity it aspires to. The prevention of any form of bullying is essential to the dignity and respect we encourage in schools. I recognise that this can be quite complicated to live out in a school community where parents, staff and children may all have different views.”

He concluded the letter by saying that: “We will continue to review our policies in light of updated legislation and Government guidance.”

Responding to the letter, the Rowes said: “We are very disappointed by the response. It ultimately demonstrates that the Archbishop of Canterbury upholds the position of our son’s primary school that we and our child were potentially ‘transphobic’ bullies for not believing in transgender ideology.

“The Church of England appear to be acting as puppets to the government and are kowtowing to whatever the government and Stonewall say on these issues. They are not standing on the Word of God but the word of man.

“The Church of England has 4,700 primary schools under its care which it is exposing to an ideology that promotes chest binders and affirming children as young as five in the opposite gender.

“By standing by Valuing All God’s Children, the Archbishop of Canterbury is supporting secular culture and allowing bible believing Christians to be persecuted for their beliefs on human sexuality.

“The Church of England is repeatedly abandoning bible-believing Christians and their children on the altar of transgender affirmation.  

“Referrals to gender identity clinics have gone through the roof in the past decade. In 2012 there were 250 referrals, compared to last year when there were 5,000 – this cannot be allowed to continue.

“As adults, we have a responsibility to look after children and protect them. Children don’t have the same capacity to think through the consequences of something like adults do. The CofE is manifestly failing in its duty of care.  

“We will continue fighting for God’s truth on these issues until more is done to protect primary school children under the Church of England’s care in this country.

Enforcing Mermaids’ lie

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, who backed the Rowes’ case, said:

“Even at this late stage this is an opportunity for the church to speak clearly of what true identity is. This is actually what society wants to hear and our children need to hear.

“Instead, the response from the Archbishop of Canterbury is sadly predictable. It is no surprise to see the CofE hierarchy refusing to tell the truth on what it means to me made in God’s image and speak boldly into one of  the most important social issues of our time.

“Schools, local authorities, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have sadly believed and enforced Mermaids’ and Stonewall’s lie that if you question an affirmative approach to gender-confusion you could be breaking the law. Tragically, this is harming our children.

“It is simply not plausible for the Church of England to claim that this guidance does not support the affirmation of children as young as 5 in a transgender identity. Not only do passages of VAGC clearly support it, but its citation against Christians who do not support transgender ideology demonstrate with undeniable clarity how it is received.

“If the Church of England wishes to make clear that it does not believe young children should be affirmed in a transgender identity it can do so simply – by withdrawing Valuing All God’s Children.

“VAGC fully affirms the concept of “trans pupils” which entirely reflects the worldview and legal understanding of Mermaids rather than a Christian one.”


Notes to editors:

Background to the story and case

In 2017, the Rowes had raised concerns after two boys in their sons’ classes at the age of six were allowed to come to the Isle of Wight school identifying as girls.

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

It added that it was working “at every stage” with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (TPHT) in supporting transitioning children at the school. This year the TPHT has been shut down over safety concerns for thousands of children who have been referred to the clinic.

The Rowes were subsequently given an ‘accept it or leave’ ultimatum by the school after they were told that their son would be demonstrating “transphobic behaviour” if he showed an “inability to believe a transgender person is actually a ‘real’ female or male” or refused to “acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender e.g. by failing to use their adopted name or using gender inappropriate pronouns.”

The local Church of England diocese backed the school’s position based on its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance on challenging homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic bullying.

The guidance covers the CofE’s 4,700 primary schools and says that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender.

The Rowes were subsequently had no other choice but to home school their two sons as they believed the school’s policies were harmful and in direct opposition to how they wanted to raise their children’s understanding of human identity.

In response to their treatment by the school, the Rowes wrote to the DfE calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case.

They also called on the DfE to scrap the Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidelines which are being held as best practice by the government.

The Rowes were subsequently had no other choice but to home school their two sons as they believed the school’s policies were harmful and in direct opposition to how they wanted to raise their children’s understanding of human identity.

In response to their treatment by the school, the Rowes wrote to the DfE calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case.

They also called on the DfE to scrap the Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidelines which are being held as best practice by the government.

Since 2015, the guidelines, produced by LGBT activists and driven by Stonewall, 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.

The Rowes also presented international expert evidence to the DfE which revealed how trans affirming policies lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’ for gender-confused children.

However, the government refused to properly assess this evidence and rejected the Rowes’ complaint saying that the school’s treatment of the two primary school children who had chosen to identify as the opposite gender ‘does not constitute education.’

Pursuing a judicial review of these decisions, in February 2022 the Rowes were granted permission by Lord Justice Lane to bring a judicial review for their case to be heard in full at the High Court.

Justice Lane ruled that the DfE’s decisions were judicially reviewable on the grounds that transgender issues in schools are a matter of education and therefore the responsibility of the state.

Rather than facing a full judicial review hearing, the DfE has now settled the case and have awarded the Rowes £22,000 in costs which they intend to donate to the Christian Legal Centre. The government have also committed to reform: ‘guidance for schools on transgender issues is being developed by the Department in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a view to undertaking a public consultation on draft guidance in Autumn 2022, to which the Claimants will have the opportunity to respond.’

In a speech at the Policy Exchange last month it is believed the then Attorney General, Suella Braverman KC, provided indications of how these guidelines will be shaped.

Providing clarification and guidance on the law on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in schools, she said:
‘The problem is that many schools and teachers believe – incorrectly – that they are under an absolute legal obligation to treat children who are gender questioning according to their preference, in all ways and all respects, from preferred pronouns to use of facilities and competing in sports. All this is sometimes taking place without informing their parents or taking into account the impact on other children. Anyone who questions such an approach is accused of transphobia. In my view, this approach is not supported by the law.’

She added: “No child should be made to fear punishment or disadvantage for refusing to adopt a preferred pronoun for a gender questioning child.” And crucially that in this context, “the right to freedom of belief, thought, conscience and speech must be protected.”

Furthermore, the Attorney-General has said that social transition “is a serious intervention” and that any decision to socially transition a child at school “should only be taken after all safeguarding processes have been followed, medical advice obtained, and a full risk assessment conducted.”

Mrs Braverman KC concluded that we must be sensitive “to the fact that gender distress may be a response to a range of developmental, sociological and psychological factors.”

Expert reports, images and video

The letter:

Valuing All God’s Children (Mermaids endorsement p.39):

Expert reports:

Pre-action letter

Letter from the school

Images of Nigel and Sally Rowe

Video interview

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