A Church of England primary school in Norfolk has refused to amend its extreme and graphic Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) lessons, and to address safeguarding concerns following parent complaints.
The controversial lessons and materials, which were implemented without effective parental consultation at Swanton Morley VC Primary School in Dereham, Norfolk, teach children as young as seven “to think about what gender they are” and they may be “born like a boy (with a penis), but feel like a girl inside”.
Elsewhere, the material encourages teachers to hold mock same-sex ‘weddings’, promotes the use of contested terms such as ‘pangender’ and ‘cisgender’ and tells children they can identify as pangender – someone who is neither a boy or a girl.
With the support of the Christian Legal Centre, one parent, who has two young children at the school and who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of backlash due to speaking out, escalated a complaint about the RSHE provision to an ‘independent’ review hearing.
The parent’s concerns began when the school rolled out its plans for RHSE without any detail or effective or democratic consultation. Neither the RHSE policy nor the RSHE teaching materials were put on the school’s website, and parents had to attend the school to see a copy of either.
When approaching the RHSE coordinator at the school, the parent noticed that she immediately became “sheepish” when asked about the materials in the programme. The coordinator began probing him about what he wanted to know.
The parent found in the 300 pages of material that the teaching presented no opposing viewpoints to gender identity ideology.
The teaching material included that children would be introduced to a wide spectrum of gender identity belief vocabulary and themes. This included requirements to learn about contested terms such as ‘heteronormativity’, ‘cisgender’ and ‘pangender’, while terms such as heterosexual and straight were omitted.
There were also graphic diagrams of sexual intercourse and mentions of foreplay.
Believing these themes to be too complex, and in some cases sexualised, the parent sought legal advice and started doing their own research. The parent discovered that the teaching content and the approach of the school appeared to breach government guidance, the Education Act 2002 and the Human Rights Act 1998, and raised potential safeguarding issues.
He believes that many parents at the school appear to be in the dark on what is in the proposed teaching while other parents who share the same concerns are afraid to speak out and take a stand.
Concerns brushed aside in one-sided hearing
From the outset, the parent said he wanted to collaborate and work with the school. However, he said that his olive branches were repeatedly rejected, and his questions and concerns brushed aside.
Raising a complaint with the school, the head teacher responded that: “I have had confirmation our teaching resources are in line with government policy”, yet he could not provide any evidence to substantiate this.
The head teacher also said in response to politicians, such as Suella Braverman, who have raised concerns that many schools are breaking the law by promoting gender ideology to children, that: “politicians are entitled to their views (as we all are) but it does not supersede statutory policy”.
Flabbergasted by the response and the blunt rejection of his concerns, the parent followed the complaints procedure and asked for an independent investigation to benchmark the materials against other providers.
Instead, the head teacher spoke to the author of the materials at Educator Solutions, a trading arm of Norfolk County Council which produces RHSE material for the region, who said there was no problem with the materials and that they were compliant. No evidence to substantiate this was provided.
The complaint was then escalated to the school’s governing body who agreed to hold a hearing, but said they were not going to consider the moral or philosophical nature of the teaching materials as part of the complaint.
The parent said that it was clear at the hearing that the panel had made a pre-determined decision and were unable to clarify when challenged how the teaching materials were compliant with statutory guidance. They refused to answer 95% of his questions during the hearing and the Headteacher was not present.
Members leading the panel contradicted themselves by stating before and at the start of the hearing that they were not going to make any judgment on the teaching materials. However, during the hearing and in a subsequent decision letter, they made a judgment that the materials were compliant.
Evidence presented during the hearing included September 2020 guidance from the Department for Education which warned about the sensitivities and complexities about teaching about gender reassignment. It states that:
“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.”
As the parent read out quotes from a report, into the damaging and harmful consequences of explicit, graphic and inappropriate sex education, a member of the panel exclaimed: “Do we really have to listen to this? I don’t believe a word you are saying”, and said “this is causing me distress”.
This interaction was not recorded in the minutes of the hearing but the outburst left the parent feeling no option to but finish submitting his evidence.
At the end of the parent’s evidence, without any deliberation, the chair of the panel declared: “We are not going to pause the roll out of these materials”. They said that Norfolk County Council had produced the materials in partnership with Educator Solutions which must mean they are compliant.
Left with no alternative, the parent is considering his options and has written to Ofsted and the Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, calling for an intervention and an investigation into the RHSE provision at the school.
The Christian Legal Centre has also written to the school, but so far the Headteacher has not responded.
Govt is set to change its own guidance
Teaching is delivered under the banner of the government’s Relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education statutory guidance, which was formed in conjunction with Stonewall, and published in 2019.
Schools are obligated to deliver an RHSE curriculum. However, it is at the discretion of each school and headmaster as to how far they go with the teaching, especially teaching on human sexuality and gender.
Last month, the government described its own guidance as “inappropriate” and launched an urgent review.
The Prime Minister is reported to be personally alarmed by the guidance and has pledged to publish the review before the next parliamentary recess this Summer.
Meanwhile, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, recently said that the schools regulator is “powerless” to sanction schools teaching children as young as 12 about ‘gender unicorns’ and anal sex.
A large number of MPs have also expressed concern.
A think tank, formed by Conservative MPs Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, published a report on the state of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) across UK schools. The paper warns that there is strong evidence that “children are being put at risk” by groups with “a radical ideological position on sex, gender and sexuality”.
It concludes: “Across the country, children are being subjected to lessons that are age inappropriate, extreme, sexualising and inaccurate, often using resources from unregulated organisations that are actively campaigning to undermine parents. This is not a victory for equality. It is a catastrophe for childhood.”
Last month, the Policy Exchange published a report on the extent of extreme transgender ideology in UK schools saying that: “Safeguarding principles are being routinely disregarded in many secondary schools, which are neglecting their safeguarding responsibilities in favour of a set of contested beliefs in a way that risk jeopardising child wellbeing and safety.”
‘I thought my children would be safe in a CofE school’
The parent said: “I was deeply shocked when I reviewed the material that would be taught to my children. It is age inappropriate, partisan, unscientific and dangerous.
“I love my children, and I will not allow them to be exposed to radical ideologies at an inappropriate age and in an imbalanced way. However, the government guidance and teaching is allowing parents to be kept in the dark and powerless to challenge and question the deeply inappropriate teaching.
“Parents should be able to send their children to school with reassurance that their pre-pubescent children are not going to be exposed to extreme sex and relationships education under the radar.
“The governing body of the school, despite all the evidence, simply dismissed the evidence and my concerns. It was like it was not possible to question what they were doing – it was frankly bizarre and Orwellian. You feel like you have to self-censor and can’t have any influence. This means that parents are fearful about speaking up and being labelled.
“Telling 7-year-old girls that they can be born like a girl, but feel like a boy inside, and that there are more than two genders, is simply wrong. These aspects of the teaching materials are based on highly contentious and contested views, that put great emphasis on emotion and belief rather than biological reality.
“Irrespective of the side of that debate that you can relate to, presenting gender ideology as fact, and without opposing views, to 7-year-old children, whilst marginalising the traditional nuclear family dynamic, is wrong. It is also not compliant with the impartiality stipulations detailed with the statutory DfE policy guidance.
“The way the Headteacher chose to ignore our valid and serious concerns is further evidence of the school’s unwillingness to engage with and work with parents with regards to RHSE. Our beliefs and viewpoint were marginalised and excluded presumably in the name of inclusivity.
“I took it as read that in a Church of England school my children would not be exposed to extreme materials, but I was wrong.
“I wanted to work with the school and thought I was being reasonable. They have, however, thrown all my olive branches back at me.
“Urgent intervention and guidance is needed from the government, Ofsted and the Church of England. Parents must no longer be kept in the dark and their views and rights so casually disrespected – too much is at stake for a generation of children.”
Ignored and disbelieved
Andrea Williams chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
“The Policy Exchange report exposes how schools are failing in their safeguarding duty to children and this story reveals why they are failing.
“For years, parents and teachers who have raised safeguarding concerns over the promotion of gender identity to primary school children have been ignored, disbelieved and marginalised. No questioning is allowed.
“Thousands of children are being indoctrinated with extreme gender ideology without the knowledge of their parents. The government needs to allow parents to withdraw children from relationships and sex education until the gender and political ideology has been rooted out of these lessons.
“By encouraging our children to make up their own personal truth we lose all sense of reality and leave them confused and hurting. Dignity comes from our God-given humanity, not gender identities.”