By Judith Nemeth
The Government sets legislation, the Department for Education issues policy and education guidelines and Ofsted inspects schools. However it is ultimately parents, headteachers and teachers who carry the responsibility of educating children. Indeed, the previous Minister for Education, Damian Hinds, publicly placed this decision-making into their hands.
In August 2019, The Values Foundation sent letters to all relevant Ministers of children, schools, welfare, flagging up serious concerns and misgivings, supported by strong evidence, about promoting gender identity. The eventual outcome was a meeting in October between TVF and the DfE’s RSE Department. We presented to them a folder of over 500 pages documenting fears and apprehensions emanating from schools and parents who had experienced the first half term of early adoption of RSE from September 2019. The password is (all lower case): values
Whilst some of those documents evidenced highly unsuitable resources used to sexualise young children, most concerned gender identity.
The BBC Newsnight programme 25/11/2019: via @bbciplayer as well as Radio 4’s File On 4, both aired last week, focused on transgender, again highlighting this gravely concerning issue. Whilst it is difficult to assess the numbers of de-transitioners, what was clear was the paucity of robust research. We do not have evidence of the long-term effects of puberty blockers and transitioning surgery. Neither have the reasons for the hike in numbers in those seeking transition been investigated.
In the DfE’s Relationships and Sex Education most recent FAQs (5th November 2019), schools are advised that they ‘should meet the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity’. This subject of developing identity in children is an unsubstantiated, highly complex and an extreme minority issue often reflecting a complex potpourri of challenges that the child is facing. Schools are not equipped to meet those needs adequately.
Parents and teachers of children who exhibit such tendencies should of course have access to specialist help. Asking a teacher or headteacher to deal with this is like asking your doctor to teach times tables. It is abundantly clear that both the DfE and the NHS are wading in uncharted waters.
Ten years ago gender identity was not even on the horizon of 99 per cent of the UK population. This new phenomenon urgently needs qualitative and quantitative, multi-disciplinary research in order to inform all primary carers, whether in the education, health or parenting fields, how to deal with this sensitively and appropriately. It is our children’s ‘right’ that this is done without delay.
A society which over-affirms gender identity is creating unnecessary problems for itself. This is not the domain of relationships and sex education, it is a medical, psychological and moral issue. The ‘moral compass’ of our country and the ‘soul of our nation’ mentioned in Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s article in The Times refers not only to anti-Semitism; considerations on how we look after, educate and nurture our children into healthy human beings also reflects our morality and our soul.
Judith Nemeth is Executive Director of The Values Foundation. This article first appeared in The Conservative Woman on 6 December 2019.