A Church of England (CofE) primary school has justified secretly teaching 8-year-old children that they can be born in the wrong body and encouraged the idea that 3-year-old’s can declare themselves as ‘non-binary’ to their parents.
Parents, Calvin and Nicola Watts, who are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, have been forced to remove their children from St Michael’s Church of England primary school in Tenterden, Kent, after discovering that their 8-year-old child and classmates were being given extreme teaching on gender identity.
Following parental complaints, however, the school, whose website states that it is ‘proud of its Christian values’ justified the teaching based on the CofE’s own guidance, ‘Valuing All God’s Children’. It also did not rule out showing similar content to children in future.
The family were alerted by other parents that a video of ‘It feels good to be yourself: a book about gender identity’, by Theresa Thorn, had been shown in class without their knowledge or consent.
The book read by Nana Ceecee promotes the idea of children being “both a boy and a girl”, or “neither a boy nor a girl”, or “non- binary”. It says that people “guess” about a baby’s gender when they are born. It also suggests that: “You might feel like your gender changes from day to day or from year to year.”
The book opens with the character ‘Ruthie’ who is described as a ‘transgender girl’ and says that ‘she’ was born a girl, despite being biologically male.
Ruthie’s brother ‘Xavier’ is described as a ‘cis-gender boy’’ and it adds that ‘there are so many different ways to be a boy or a girl, too many to fit in a book.’
The book affirms and encourages the idea that: “Your gender identity might not match what people thought you were when you were born. When you were born you couldn’t tell people who you were or how you felt. They looked at you and made a guess. Maybe they got it right, maybe they got it wrong.”
In conclusion it states that: “Ruthie was five when she told her parents they had got her gender identity wrong’ and ‘Xavier was three and a half when he told his family he likes being a boy. You might feel like your gender changes from day to day.”
Books such as ‘And Tango makes Three’, which normalise same-sex relationships, were also promoted to children at the school.
Showing such material to children goes against official government guidance which cautions schools against relying on: “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.”
The guidance adds that: “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….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.”
The promotion of this material came despite the parents writing to the school saying that due to their Christian beliefs, and how they wished to bring up their children, they wanted their children to be withdrawn from any lessons that normalised LGBT relationships.
They asked for this request to be passed to any relevant teachers and politely said that if anyone wanted to discuss this with them, they would be happy to talk.
When the parents’ discovered that their children and their classmates were being exposed to and taught about gender identity, they raised urgent concerns that their children were being ‘politically indoctrinated’ and that this went against the school’s safeguarding policy.
They raised awareness among other parents and were banned from trying to speak to the teacher who had initiated showing the video and the gender identity lesson.
They also wrote to the head teacher and Chair of Governors saying that they were genuinely concerned for the emotional and physical safety of their child and did not believe they could return their child to the school until the issues were properly addressed. The parents’ said that they believed that showing the video was child abuse.
The parents’ say that other parents from other religious and secular backgrounds have also raised concern with the school after being made aware of the video and other materials.
Chief executive response
In a letter in response to the parents’ concerns, the chief executive of the Tenterden Trust, Stuart Reeves, who oversees the school, refused to rule out that similar content would not be shown in future. He added that decisions on what could be shown to children would come down to the discretion of the head teacher.
Furthermore, Mr Reeves wrote in response to the complaint: “I have sought advice from the Department of Education, the Diocesan Board of Education and the Association of School and College Leaders. I have also referred back to the law as it currently stands in relation to equalities legislation and the guidance that is given to schools by the Department for Education and also by the Church of England in this regard.
“As I mentioned when we met, after viewing this resource myself, my opinion was that it was not appropriate for all children and some may well have found the material confusing at this age. Having said that, there were two qualified adults in the room that were able to answer any questions relating to the story should there be any from the children. In hindsight, and in view of the sensitive nature of the topic, it would have been better to have checked the suitability of the resource with the Headteacher. This is something that will happen in the future.
“With reference to the potential promotion of gender fluidity I have found no evidence to suggest that this is happening at the school. I have, however, found evidence of the school adhering to the guidance set out by the Department of Education and that of the Church of England in particular which mentions, very clearly, that our role as teachers is to ‘help young people to value and respect everyone as cherished and loved by God, regardless of gender identity or sexuality’.
Mr Reeves was referring to the Church of England’s ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ which has been used in a number of high-profile Christian freedoms cases to silence disagreement from Christian parents, clergy and teacher’s on these issues.
Valuing All God’s Children
Appalled that the CofE’s guidance on these issues were being used against them, the parents have now written to the CofE’s chief education officer, Rev. Nigel Genders. They stated they had originally wanted their children to go to a Christian school partly because: “We did not want them to be exposed to transgender propaganda which we view as completely contrary to fundamental Christian teaching.
“The Chief Executive’s letter quoted from your defence of the Valuing All God’s Children guidance for Church of England schools…We wanted to ask whether you knew that your statement was being used to defend the use of transgender propaganda in a Church of England school?
“We have read your full statement in which you argue that the Valuing All God’s Children guidance does not support affirming children in the opposite sex. However, even your statement is now being used for the purpose of defending teaching young children that they may wish to identify in the opposite sex.
“We would also like to ask you to withdraw your statement and the Valuing All God’s Children guidance as a matter of urgency before more schools use these statements to defend encouraging children to consider that they might wish to identify in the opposite sex.
As they wait for a response from the CofE, in a joint statement, Calvin and Nicola Watts, said: “When we found out that extreme transgender ideology was being pushed on our 8-year-old without our consent, we were shocked and horrified.
“We felt very disrespected and betrayed as we had asked at the start of the year for our children not to be exposed to any LGBT ideology.
“When we met with the head teacher, we were made out to be ‘unloving’, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Our primary concern is for the welfare of our children and their classmates after being exposed to such harmful material. Once we raised concern, the priority from the school, however, was to shut us down.
“If you watch the Nana Ceecee video it can only be described as child abuse – it is unscientific, nothing to do with relationships and encourages the idea that 3-year-olds can declare themselves as non-binary to their parents.
“Whether the showing of the video was politically partisan, or an ignorant mistake doesn’t matter – either way it was negligent.
“We are equally mortified by the response from Stuart Reeves and the fact that the CofE’s own guidance is being used against us and other Christians.
“It is tragic that Christian parents can no longer send their children to CofE primary schools in confidence that they will not be exposed to extreme transgender ideology. The CofE appears to care more about politics than biblical truth.
“We urge the CofE hierarchy to urgently look into what has happened and to address how its own guidance is being used to defend the promotion of what we believe to be child abuse.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The Nana Ceecee video that was shown to 8-year-olds was disturbing and utterly inappropriate. The Church of England must urgently respond to the serious issues raised by the family. It is unacceptable that children as young as eight should be exposed to such harmful material.”