A new report from Policy Exchange , Asleep at the Wheel, investigating how English secondary schools are dealing with the increasing number of pupils who say they are ‘trans’, suggests that there is a conflict between the application of gender-identity beliefs and the safeguarding principles which, by law, schools should adhere to.
Today we launch 'Asleep at the Wheel: An Examination of Sex and Gender in School' written by @specalot with a foreword from @RosieDuffield1. This report highlights a safeguarding blind spot when it comes to how schools are dealing with gender-distressed children and their peers.
— Policy Exchange (@Policy_Exchange) March 30, 2023
And the evidence indicates that schools are prioritising gender-affirmation over child protection.
The teaching on sex and gender is not abiding by government guidelines and the report asserts that:
‘schools have been left to create new policies in order to deal with the influx of children presenting with gender-distress, many of which advocate an unquestioning gender-affirmative approach. This is problematic because the nature of affirmative practice is fundamentally medical. Consequently well established laws and safeguarding norms are being substantially jeopardised, with schools unwittingly pushing children on to a pathway of profound and life- altering medical intervention, with the impossibility of knowing whether this is in the child’s best interests’ (p16)
The think-tank Policy Exchange sent out FOI requests to over 300 maintained secondary schools and academies in England. It asked 7 key questions, to find out what schools are teaching on sex and gender, and to find the extent to which schools are upholding basic safeguarding principles.
The results indicate that schools and teachers, don’t see gender-distress as a safeguarding/child protection issue, nor as a medical or mental health issue. Gender “Affirmation” is the paramount motive.
But sexual boundaries are being compromised – infringing other students’ rights to safety, privacy and dignity, for example. Many schools operate mix-sexed toilets and changing rooms, but according to the School Premises Act 2012, they are legally required to provide single sex toilet and washing facilities for children over 8 years.
Some schools do not even believe they should inform parents/guardians when a child is experiencing gender distress, erroneously citing confidentiality (safeguarding should always take precedence over confidentiality, and government guidelines state that parents should always be involved when there are safeguarding issues).
Of the schools which replied,
- Only 28 % are reliably informing parents as soon as a child discloses feelings of gender distress
- 33% did not say they would inform their Designated Safeguarding Lead or medical practitioner when a child discloses gender distress
- 64% require other children to affirm a gender-distressed child’s new ID
A key source of confusion – and where the gender-affirmative approach is most likely located and validated – is in the teaching of ‘Relationships, Sex, and Health Education’ (RSHE) curriculum. This subject is mandatory in all primary and secondary schools ( since 2019). Parents can opt to take their children out of the sex education part of the syllabus.
This curriculum has been targetted by external agencies which provide their own teaching materials. Whilst government guidance warns that schools should ‘exercise extreme caution when working with external agencies’ and that ‘schools should not promote extreme political positions or use such material produced by external agencies’ (p27) there is no doubt that external agencies and pressure groups have been very effective in influencing the course content, in ways which certainly have their own ideology and which probably contravene government guidelines.
The report identifies some of the agencies used by schools to teach RSHE, and examines in detail their mission statements and teaching material.
These agencies have received large sums of money from various Government departments since 2017, all in aid of diversity and ostensibly, with the aim of counteracting alleged bullying of LGBT+ children.
Examples are Stonewall, Diversity Role Models, The Rainbow Flag award, and The Proud Trust. Here is a Times’ article which details some of these organisations.
‘A large number of schools..had worked with TPT’ ,which provides teaching packs, workshop material, lesson notes, although ‘few of its resources are publicly available on its website’, and the charity ‘also runs a live chat service with LGBT + mentors..(but) it is not clear from the TPT website how these mentors are trained, selected, and vetted’ (p77).
Diversity Role Models – formerly in receipt of £100,000 from the supermarket Asda – has a teaching pack which recommends ‘a highly controversial book (“Beyond Magenta: trans teens speak out”) in which a child aged 6 is depicted performing a consensual oral sex act’.
One of the DRM teaching packs ‘contained the phrase “love has no age”- a phrase commonly associated with paedophiles’ (p79)
Stonewall has been particularly influential not only in education but across much of the public sector. Its endorsement of gender identity beliefs is, according to the report, ‘fully embedded in schools‘. (p 75)
Stonewall seems to encourage schools to move away from their legal safeguarding responsibilities.
The report quotes the charity’s ‘Statement of Confidentiality’ policies :
it’s important to know that a young person coming out to you (telling you that they are gay, lesbian, or trans) isn’t a safeguarding issue in itself. Unless you have a reason to worry that they are at risk of harm or abuse, you don’t have to alert you Designated Safeguarding Lead or inform parents….. bear in mind that the parents may not be supportive of their sexual or romantic orientation or their gender identity. Where this is the case, informing parents… against the young persons’ wishes may expose them to great risk ..’ (p75)
By implication, parents who do not support gender self identity are ‘unsupportive’ and therefore bigoted, and they must be kept in the dark. Teachers are encouraged to keep secrets.
The report is comprehensive and well written – the author, Lucy Moore, knows her stuff, especially on legislation and government guidelines for safeguarding, child protection and confidentiality. But its contents might be many parents’ nightmare.
The foreword is written by Labour MP Rosie Duffield , and is endorsed by other MPs. Rosie Duffield also penned an op-ed in the Times.
There are 9 recommendations which include the setting up of a government commission to review the teaching of RSHE, with a focus on safeguarding.
The government response released on 31 March 2023 is that it will review and issue statutory guidance on RSHE teaching by the end of the year :
in response to disturbing reports that inappropriate material is being taught in some schools. The review is needed to make sure all children are protected from inappropriate content in all cases, even if many schools already teach RSHE and engage parents in a positive way.
The teachers’ response, if one assumes that their voices are adequately represented by their union, the National Education Union (NEU) which voted on 4 April 2023 to :
support LGBT+ initiatives including drag queen storytime and inviting LGBT+ authors to speak in schools at the union’s annual conference in Harrogate on Wednesday.
They said that the activities would help to challenge the “heteronormative culture and curriculum that dominates education”.
Teachers voted through the motion after Shelby Millard, a teacher working at a secondary school in Sutton, Surrey, told delegates that Rishi Sunak “is supporting the far-Right attacks on drag queen storytime” and “the murder of beautiful souls like Brianna [Ghey].”
Does everyone see where the problem is?