New RSE guidance provides welcome news to parents

25 September 2020

The Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska comments on news that schools have been told by the Department for Education not to promote a transgender agenda.

On 24 of September, the Department for Education (DfE) issued new guidance to help school leaders plan, develop and implement the new statutory RSE curriculum. The guidance, entitled Plan Your Relationships, Sex and Health Curriculum proves to be a sharp departure from the Department’s previous messaging about RSE.

Ideology and indoctrination

Perhaps best filed under the heading of ‘hasn’t Christian Concern been saying this all along,’ the DfE has now stated its position on political indoctrination and ideology clearly. For several years, Christian Concern has been critical of transgender affirming policies in schools, calling them harmful to children and a safeguarding scandal.

Nigel and Sally Rowe, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, became the first and most public face of opposition to such policies. Their two children, aged 6 and 8 at the time, attended a Church of England school on the Isle of Wight. During that period, their children’s school introduced transgender affirming policies in relation to two boys, in the same classes as their own children, who started to come to school sometimes dressed as girls.

It had been clear, even at that time, that the law was being manipulated and misrepresented to make it appear as if gender identity were synonymous with gender reassignment. While the Rowes bravely took the slings and arrows of an angry progressive culture, particularly through their rough treatment by the media, they really did prove to be the canary in the coal mine.

With the exponential increase in children being referred to gender identity clinics each year (an increase of over 2500% over the last decade), the DfE has now signalled the alarm bells that this type of teaching and the external agencies which promote them have no place in our schools:

“We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.”

What this means for groups like Mermaids

Last year, Christian Concern brought you the story of Rev. John Parker, a governor of a Church of England primary school in England who resigned because of the school’s decision to implement transgender affirming policies, keep other parents in the dark about its intentions to use the policies until they were in place, and then train the staff and governors through the controversial transgender campaigning group Mermaids. Contents of that training session were later shared by Christian Concern, which exposed just how radical their message was and to what extent they mispresented the law.

Presumably, the new guidance provides a death knell for organisations like Mermaids to be training schools and presenting their ideological message to pupils.

Sexualisation of children

The DfE has further called out schools for using materials or giving out assignments which may sexualise children:

“Teachers should be aware of age inappropriate material on the internet. Great caution should be exercised before setting any assignment, in class or at home, that involves researching a subject where there is a high risk that a child could accidentally be exposed to age inappropriate material, such as pornography. Particularly at primary level, you should be careful not to expose children to over-sexualised content.”

This part of the guidance seems to be a direct reference to what happened in Hull earlier this year, where students aged 11-14 were given an assignment to research different types of pornography. However, the sad truth is that this problem extends well beyond just what happened in Hull. Mature sexual themes and overt sexualisation has been embedded in some RSE programmes, such as the controversial All About Me, which teaches children from age six about self-stimulation.

Political indoctrination

The DfE also gave very clear guidance about the imposition of partisan political views, which is in line with Section 406 of the Education Act 1996:

“It is important when using external agencies to take particular care that the agency and any materials used are appropriate and in line with your school’s legal duties regarding political impartiality. Your local authority, governing body and headteacher must:

  • forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities by junior pupils
  • forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school
  • take reasonably practicable steps to secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils, they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.”

Here to is another area that Christian Concern has been consistently warning against, as education has become increasingly ideological. Critical gender theory, the deconstruction of the family and heteronormativity, cultural Marxism, identity politics, intersectionality and so many other toxic philosophies which create divisions among people rather than recognising their inherent equality and unity as God’s children have become the centre piece of many RSE programmes. The controversial ‘No Outsiders’ has even touted its desire to ‘queer up’ the primary school classroom.

Where does the guidance leave us

While this is likely not the end of partisan campaigning groups trying to win the hearts and minds of our children over to their ideological and political persuasion, this is nonetheless a huge leap forward for parental rights and keeping our children safe. It means most likely that radical groups like Mermaids, which have in such a short time wreaked utter havoc among our young people, will finally be side-lined. It means – I hope and pray – that a period of healing can begin where we allow our children to be children, not objects to be won over to harmful new ideologies.

While it is curious that this guidance comes at the end of September, after many schools have already adopted their new statutory relationships and relationship and sex education curriculums, the welcomeness of this guidance cannot be understated. Parents, your voices have been heard. Stay vigilant about what your children are being taught. But for today at least, pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. The new guidance shows that the DfE is listening.

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