Rebecca Bensted comments on the impact for teachers, parents and governors of MP Suella Braverman’s speech on schools and trans guidance.
Rebecca is Barrister and Centre Manager for the Christian Legal Centre, and a lay member of the Church of England’s General Synod.
The impact of the Attorney General’s speech to the Policy Exchange on 10 August is bound to be wide-ranging. Her clarification and guidance on the law on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion will be welcome news to many parents, teachers and governors.
Parents Nigel and Sally Rowe were the first people to shine a light on what was going on in schools up and down the country. They blazed the trail which led us to this point when the Christian Legal Centre supported them in their challenge to the Secretary of State.
The Rowes removed their son from a Church of England primary school after a 6-year-old boy started sometimes coming dressed as a girl. They were told that their son would be demonstrating “transphobic behaviour” if he demonstrated 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.”
After years of legal work, Nigel and Sally only recently won permission to challenge the transgender policies that led to this. The Attorney General has now made it crystal clear that this should not have happened: “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.” The Rowes have been wholly vindicated as a result.
Teachers who have consulted our legal team concerned about inappropriate social transitioning of children can now be reassured that their instincts were correct all along.
We are currently supporting a highly principled and caring teacher with an unblemished record who is being disciplined – and potentially faces dismissal – for raising serious safeguarding concerns about the social transition of a 7-year-old pupil at school. The pupil in question was allowed to ‘socially transition’ without any kind of risk assessment. Instead of taking medical advice, the school did exactly what they were told to do by an ideologically-driven employee of the local authority who saw affirmation as the only way to respond to the gender-distressed child. There can be no doubt that our children are being seriously harmed by this approach.
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.” Our experience has been that safeguarding is often used in this area as a reason to blindly affirm a child’s ‘gender identity’ rather than to take the measured approach required by such a major step.
Challenge to CofE schools
School governors, even in Church of England schools, can be confident that a stance that far greater scrutiny is required before a child should be permitted to ‘socially transition’ at school is the correct one.
In recent times we have supported faithful school governors and teachers who have had the Church of England’s own anti-bullying guidance, Valuing All God’s Children, used against them when they have bravely refused to act against their consciences and instead promoted the best interests of the children in their care. Valuing All God’s Children is written from the point of view of complete acceptance of ‘transgender identities’ and the need for accommodation of these. As such, it tends to encourage the dangerous ideology of affirmation as the only way. It is extraordinary to think that the Church of England has been promoting this highly controversial view of gender that the government has now confirmed that it views as indoctrination. A quarter of primary schools in England are Church of England!
Protection for families
Local authority employees have been in touch with us needing support and legal advice over the policies on ‘trans’ being implemented, including ready affirmation and even encouragement of social transition of looked-after children.
We have even been contacted by parents who have been threatened by social services to take their children into care where they have been unwilling to affirm a ‘gender identity’ contrary to the child’s biological sex.
Appropriate sex education
We have lost count of the number of parents we have supported who are shocked and distressed at the content of age-inappropriate PSHE, RSE and sex education material promoting transgender ideology to their children. The Attorney General has made clear that this is indoctrination and is contrary to government guidance that has been in place since February this year. Faithful teachers we have supported have lost their jobs over this.
Guidance must extend to medical field
Our prayer now is that those in the field of medicine will now respond to the change in culture that started with the legal case of Rowe, was continued by the legal case of Keira Bell, and is now being promoted by the Cass Review. Parents need far easier access to psychologists who are willing to support their gender-distressed children without affirming them as ‘trans’.
In our experience, sadly many of the people employed by the local authority in the CAMHS services up and down the country seem to have been captured by transgender ideology. This is dangerous and must change. The situation is undoubtedly made worse by institutional support for the Memorandum of Understanding, which makes it difficult for counselling and therapy professionals to do anything other than affirm a child’s professed ‘gender identity’.
As the Attorney General has clearly stated, we must be sensitive “to the fact that gender distress may be a response to a range of developmental, sociological and psychological factors.” Further, any legislation to outlaw so-called ‘conversion therapy’ which covers ‘gender identity’ will be entirely opposed to this essential goal.
We look forward to the detailed new guidance that we understand is soon to be put out by the Department of Education in this area, so that after a long period of confusion, headteachers and school governors alike are in no doubt as to their legal responsibilities in this area.