Church of England under pressure over pro-trans school guidance

2 February 2024

Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy, on why Church of England schools are failing gender-questioning children

The Church of England is feeling the pressure over its notorious Valuing All God’s Children (VAGC) guidance for its 4,630 schools. This is the guidance that has been used in court to discredit faithful Christians on several occasions. It wrongly refers to “trans pupils” and allows for pupils as young as four-years-old to socially transition by wearing the uniform of the opposite sex.

CofE’s VAGC contradicts government guidance

The latest pressure on the CofE has come from two directions.

First, the government has finally put out its long-awaited draft guidance for schools on gender questioning children. This guidance states clearly that “under UK law children cannot obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate and therefore cannot change their legal sex.”

Therefore, the guidance states that it has “not used the term transgender to describe children.” Sadly, VAGC does refer to “trans pupils” several times, lending support to the idea that a child can be transgender.

The government’s guidance states that “a child who is gender questioning should, in general, be held to the same uniform standards as other children of their sex at their school and schools may set clear rules to this effect.” VAGC contradicts this by stating that  “indirect discrimination could include an inflexible uniform policy that creates a particular difficulty for trans pupils.”  VAGC therefore encourages schools to allow pupils to dress in the opposite sex.

The government’s guidance also states that the belief that someone can have a ‘gender’ that is different from their biological sex is “a contested belief.”

However, VAGC, rather shockingly, states that “transgender issues may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.” VAGC assumes transgender ideology throughout with no attempt to recognise that it is contested. It states that “transphobic language is a common form of bullying”, and that “transphobic language” should be challenged. This is interpreted to mean that gender critical statements should be challenged in schools.

VAGC allows 4-year-olds to lie about their gender

It is abundantly clear that VAGC stands in direct contradiction to the government’s guidance, especially in allowing young children to socially transition.

This is where the second piece of pressure has come from. The Telegraph has reported that a 4-year-old boy has been allowed to join a CofE primary school as a girl. The child’s biological sex was hidden from his young classmates who were traumatised when they later found out.

The gender-questioning child ‘flash[ed] his willy’ at the girls and talked about a ‘deep secret’ that ‘she’ is actually a boy.

A parent said that the school had ‘robbed’ her daughter of her childhood when she realised she had been lied to by those she should expect to be able to trust. The parent said her daughter was highly stressed by what happened and was refusing to talk, hiding under the table, and suffering from stress-induced insomnia and constipation.

The mother and others have repeatedly raised safeguarding concerns about pupils at the school, but feel that they have not been listened to.

There is no doubt that VAGC was used to justify the actions of this CofE school in allowing a 4-year-old to lie about his gender, with teachers supporting him in his lie. VAGC, which contains a foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury, states that:

“The protected characteristic of gender reassignment only works one way – not being transgender is not a protected characteristic. Consequently schools can make adjustments to meet the needs of a trans pupil without being accused of discriminating against non-trans pupils.”

VAGC specifically allows young pupils to wear uniforms of the opposite sex as cited earlier.

Responding to The Telegraph a spokesman for the CofE claimed that VAGC is not “for schools to help them provide for gender questioning children.” However, the guidance states that CofE schools should allow young children to use opposite sex uniforms. If the CofE does not agree with this happening in schools then it should scrap this guidance.

Christian parents highlighted the issues

Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe first brought these issues to the attention of the public in 2017 when they objected to 6-year-old pupils in their sons’ CofE Primary School being allowed to socially transition, wearing opposite sex uniforms and lying about their gender. The school and the local diocese dismissed the Rowes’ concerns and deemed them and their children as transphobic. Not deterred, the Rowes asked the government to intervene and when the government refused, they challenged the decision of the Department of Education’s decision, presenting expert evidence to the Department on the ‘catastrophic’ consequences of allowing gender confused children to socially transition.

The government settled the case with the Rowes in September 2022, and committed to bringing out new guidance for schools which it has now done.

Following the release of the new government guidance, the Rowes wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury urging him to withdraw the VAGC guidance. Their letter said:

“The new government guidance demonstrates that we were right to challenge our sons’ Church of England school and to object to it allowing six-year-olds to socially transition. We feel vindicated by the government’s response.”

It went on to say:

However, we are bitterly disappointed that the Church of England continues to recommend that its schools do allow young children to socially transition. As the expert evidence we submitted to the DofE shows, this is likely to be very harmful for all the children concerned. As the draft guidance states: “They [primary aged pupils] are more vulnerable as they are less able to articulate their feelings and will have a less mature understanding of complicated issues.“ As such the Church of England is failing in its duty of care for the children in its schools.

Regardless of what the government says, the Church of England should be upholding biblical teaching about the differences between men and women and the scientific fact that people cannot change their biological sex. Sadly, the Church of England has failed to uphold these truths and continues to persist in upholding guidance that directly contradicts biblical truth and is harmful for children.

An inadequate response from CofE

Replying on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev. Canon Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer, once again denied that VAGC is “intended to help schools provide for gender questioning children.” This reference to ‘gender questioning children’ is already a response to the government’s guidance which rules out talking of ‘trans children’ as occurs in VAGC.

Rev. Genders stated that the publication of the government’s guidance “presents a clear view from the government about the interpretation of equalities legislation.” This appears to be an admission that VAGC’s interpretation of equalities legalisation was wrong, or at least at odds with the government’s view.

Rev. Genders stated that the process of updating VAGC in the light of the guidance has started in “expectation of the new guidance being finalised and published later this year.”

There is no admission of how harmful VAGC has been or of any need to withdraw it immediately so as to stop schools continuing to use it to justify allowing four-year-olds to misrepresent their gender.

Neither is there any mention of who the CofE is consulting with to revise VAGC. The acknowledgements of the latest edition of VAGC credits Dominic Arnall and Sidonie Betrand-Shelton for help with writing the document. The 2017 edition of VAGC also credits these two for their help with the document. At that time, both Dominic and Sidonie were working for the LGBT campaign organisation Stonewall. Dominic was Head of Projects and Programmes. Sidonie was Programmes Manager (Education).

Dominic went on to become Chief Executive of Just Like Us – an LGBT+ young people’s charity which is currently recommending schools to ignore the government’s draft guidance on gender questioning children. Sidonie is now Director of Programmes and People at Just Like Us.

Christian Concern has exposed how lesson plans from Just Like Us are promoting LGBT ideology in schools – and targeting faith schools in particular. Children as young as seven years old are encouraged to wear a badge which displays whether they use male, female or non-binary pronouns.

It is no wonder that CofE VAGC guidance adopted and promoted transgender ideology given the people who were consulted in writing the document. It has Stonewall’s influence all over it. One wonders who Rev. Genders is consulting with for the revised edition of VAGC?

CofE persists in allowing VAGC to harm children

How many children have been harmed by VAGC? How many Christians have been pressured into allowing young children to socially transition as a result of VAGC? How many young people have been encouraged to believe that they can change their gender because of VAGC and been scarred for life as a result? How many children have lost trust in teachers and fellow pupils when they have realised they have been lied to about a pupil’s identity? How many children have been told to lie about who their classmates are? The damage done by VAGC is incalculable. The CofE ought to be ashamed. If they had any conscience they would withdraw this guidance immediately.

It is one thing to put out harmful guidance. It is quite another to persist in authorising it once you know how harmful it is. The Archbishop of Canterbury, and Revd Nigel Genders are fully responsible and culpable for the damage caused. They have no excuses. They will be judged by history, as will all the others involved in writing and promoting VAGC.

It is not difficult to say that boys are boys and girls are girls, and that these differences should be respected. As a matter of science, you cannot change your biological sex. As a matter of law, children cannot change their gender. As a matter of theology, we are all created male and female, and this cannot be changed. This is what the CofE ought to have said all along. It should have led the way in being opposed to children lying about their gender, or being taught the lie that you can change your gender. Instead, it capitulated to culture and is being forced to revise its guidance in response to the latest government advice.

Jesus’s words apply to the Church of England today, and its refusal to withdraw its harmful VAGC guidance:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6-7 NIV)

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