Your Rights as a Parent
Parents have the right to opt their children out of specified parts of the health curriculum related to sexuality.
Many parents are surprised to learn that, by law, schools are required to provide a full consultation for parents on sexuality education every two years. This includes providing the curriculum content and adequate opportunity for parents to submit anonymous feedback.
Consultation – use it or lose it. Here are the legal requirements for schools to consult with parents about the content of relationship and sexuality education and what parents can do if they are dissatisfied with the consultation offered.
Some parents have advised that when they have requested the teaching materials, schools will only allow them to leaf through hard copy versions in the school office due to copyright issues (for example, Family Planning’s resource “Navigating the Journey"), thus creating a barrier for many busy parents.
Schools are free to deliver the Relationship and Sexuality curriculum in their own ways, after consultation with their communities. Some may restrict the teaching to specific RSE classes, which parents can opt their child out of if they wish. Others may follow the recommendations from the Ministry of Education and ensure that gender theory and ideology is enmeshed throughout as many different areas of study as possible – English, Science, History, PRIDE week lessons, extra curricular rainbow groups and so on – thus restricting your ability as a parent to effectively withdraw your child from these topics.
Individual teachers may develop their own curriculum for the year, using the Ministry of Education guidelines as just that – a minimum guide. So some teachers, who may be particularly passionate about gender theory, may teach more extreme or activist versions than a teacher who perhaps isn’t as convinced that sex is “on a spectrum”. All teachers, however, will be expected to teach the minimum concepts found in the curriculum (for example, that sex is assigned, not observed at birth, and that sex is on a spectrum, not binary).
Schools should always seek to inform, involve, and respect parents when deciding what to teach their students. This is particularly important when those topics are of a sensitive or sexual nature. The teaching of gender ideology may directly go against the faith and culture of many students and families within the school community. Child safe-guarding, age appropriateness, and cultural or religious sensitivities are issues to be openly and readily discussed with parents – not avoided or actively hidden from parents.
What duty does a school have to inform parents if their child socially transitions at school?
The RSE guide encourages schools to support a child’s social transition without mentioning the need to consult parents. Social transition – where a child changes their name and wears clothing associated with the opposite sex – is not a benign act but the first extremely controversial step of a treatment pathway for gender dysphoria. When schools endorse social transition without explicit parental consent, they are depriving parents of the opportunity to fulfill their responsibilities under the Care of Children Act 2004 to determine the medical treatment of their child.
We have received legal advice that confirms that, under the Education Act, principals are expected to inform parents of any matters that in the principal’s opinion “are preventing or slowing the student’s progress... (or) harming the student’s relationships with teachers or other students.”
Points to note are:
This expectation is entirely dependent on the principal’s opinion and there is no case law to clarify the extent or limits of the principal’s decision.
Whether the obligation to inform parents of any matter is triggered depends on the circumstances of a particular case. There ought to be no school policy or teaching practice that automatically decides to keep information from a parent. Each case must be considered on its merits and the decision made by the principal.
Although parents have legal duties and responsibilities towards their children, as the children get older, the parents’ guardianship role changes to that of an advisor. The courts have previously found that a child of or over the age of 16 years in most cases is presumed to have sufficient maturity to make his or her own decisions.
In the absence of case law, whether or not you will be informed about your child socially transitioning at school wholly depends on the principal’s ideological view and the age of your child. If the principal is fully supportive of organisations like InsideOUT and follows its advice, you will not be informed. InsideOUT incorrectly asserts that schools are obliged by the Privacy Act not to tell parents and, in addition, from the age of 16 your child is considered old enough to instruct the school not to tell you.
As you cannot be certain that you will be made aware of your child’s social transition at school, it is imperative that you become fully aware of what is being taught there regarding gender identity and which rainbow organisations or clubs the school hosts. Knowing what beliefs are being presented to your child as facts is the first step towards countering this damaging ideology.
Make sure you are fully informed about the biennial consultations on the Health curriculum so that you are able to consider withdrawing your child from RSE classes if you think the content is unsuitable.
Here are some further useful links:
Stella O'Malley, psychotherapist and Director of Genspect provides an introduction to the issues for schools here. Genspect advocates for a "cautious, gentle, compassionate and understanding approach."
We recommend this policy from a US school: "We believe in parental choice and that we are here to serve families. As we strive to build upon connections with our families, we leave the job of parenting to our parents. They are responsible for imparting morals and values taught in their homes including practiced political, religious, and social viewpoints. We trust that they know what is best for their student as the student grows and develops into an adult.”
The gender affirmative model and social transition in schools (April 2023) Transgender Trend responds to the Department for Education draft transgender guidance proposals for schools in the UK. "The DfE must decide if schools are to follow either an activist approach or an approach in line with normal standards of safeguarding. It can’t be a bit of both."
This UK website from Teachers for Evidence-based Education provides guidance and resources to help educational professionals navigate the issue of sex and gender identity in schools. The group believes that “sex matters and that to deny the importance of material reality will lead to inequality and conflict between people with different protected characteristics.”
This new (Feb 2023) guidance is provided by UK education unions and sector bodies and aims to help schools meet their legal duties while supporting all children.
This February 2023 revised and updated guidance for UK schools was jointly produced by Sex Matters and Transgender Trend.
Brief Guidance for Schools Produced by Genspect, this guidance advises schools to develop a sex and gender policy and to take a "cautious, least-invasive- first approach" to gender issues.
Brief Guidance on Social Transition Also produced by Genspect, the guidance includes several cautions, including one against allowing students to dictate other people's use of pronouns, saying "it is not acceptable to act as though it is an act of hostility to use the biologically correct pronoun."
Saying no to school transition. In this article from the Critic, UK MP Miriam Cates, explains why new Education Department policy should ban schools from socially transitioning a child, even with parental consent. “The need for guidance is indisputable, but anything other than a total ban on schools socially transitioning children will exacerbate [these] tensions. Not only is a ban the right ethical solution, it is also the only way to protect head teachers from being forced to make high stakes decisions for which they are unqualified.”