Tory backlash as Education Secretary Gillian Keegan backs ‘common sense’ plan to let children change gender at school as long as parents agree
Ministers are facing a storm today over plans to let children change gender at school as long as parents consent.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is preparing new guidance expected to back pupils ‘socially transitioning’ by changing pronouns.
She has insisted that the move will be contingent on support from families, who will be at the ‘heart’ of new rules for England – due to be published before the end of the summer term.
But there are signs of concern in government and on the Tory backbenches about the stance, with some fearing it would cause chaos in classrooms and have psychological impacts on children.
The row is brewing after controversy over youngsters being allowed to identify as cats, horses and dinosaurs in some schools.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is preparing new guidance expected to back pupils ‘socially transitioning’ by changing pronouns
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Keegan said the issue over whether teachers should enforce such demands was ‘surreal’.
‘Obviously, the answer to that question is absolutely not. I have been clear that doing so is totally inappropriate,’ she wrote.
‘We must inject some common sense back into the classroom and society more generally. The classroom is a place where fact should be taught as fact and opinion as opinion.’
Ms Keegan pledged to put parents at the ‘heart’ of the new guidance on gender identity.
‘We know that the number of children and young people questioning their gender identity and experiencing gender distress has become a growing challenge for parents, teachers and schools.
‘The vast majority of teachers are doing an incredible job navigating these complex and sensitive issues.
‘We have listened to their calls for further clarity on how to manage these issues.
This is why I have been working with Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, to bring forward guidance to specifically address how schools handle these situations. This will help teachers navigate their approach to children and young people questioning their identity.
‘We will be publishing the guidance for consultation before the end of the summer term. At its heart will be parents, ensuring their voices are central to decisions being made about their child in school.’
The rules are also expected to say no-one should be obliged to use a pupil’s preferred pronouns if they feel uncomfortable doing so.
But Tory MP Miriam Cates said while parent should always be involved in decisions, schools had to set rules for the good of all pupils.
‘When I was a teacher, a parent once phoned me to demand I sit with their child through my lunch break each day to help him finish his coursework which he had failed to hand in on time. It was a very short conversation,’ she tweeted.
‘Schools frequently do not give in to parental demands; this is not, in itself, a breach of parental consent or parental involvement, rather a function of the fact that schools have rules and policies to which all children must adhere.
‘If a school decides to socially transition a child (as huge numbers of schools currently are) then of course parental consent and involvement ought to be required.
‘However, it doesn’t follow that schools do or should have the legal, ethical or clinical authority to transition a child.
The row is brewing after controversy over youngsters being allowed to identify as cats, horses and dinosaurs in some schools (file picture of pupils in class)
‘Those who are saying that schools can’t refuse a parent’s wishes in this regard are confusing parental consent with parental demands.
‘If the government decides (and who else’s job is it to decide?) that the State should not transition children… it will then be perfectly legitimate for schools to refuse to transition a child even with parental consent, just as they would refuse to allow a child to vape on school grounds, even with parental consent.
‘It is a mistake to take a managerial approach to this issue by drawing up a glorified flow chart to decide who gets to transition and when. This is not a management issue, it’s a safeguarding issue.
‘No child is born in the wrong body and there is no evidence that social transition benefits children; if the Government really believes this then it must ban schools from transitioning children.’
One Whitehall source told the paper: ‘Department for Education officials have attended too many Stonewall meetings and think social transition is acceptable.
‘It isn’t. These are children dealing with serious changes and doctors should be involved. The guidance will reflect that.’
Nick Fletcher, Tory MP for Don Valley, said: ‘There needs to be a complete ban of (social transitioning) in schools. There should be no use of gender pronouns.’
However, Tories have warned that ‘purists’ should not try to second-guess the decisions of parents about their own offspring.
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