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Church of England defends anti-LGBT bullying school guidance following gender-transition criticism

by Premier Journalist

The Church of England has defended its anti-LGBT bullying school guidance following a backlash from Christian parents and organisations. 

In a statement, Rev Nigel Genders, the Church of England's chief education officer, has said the interpretation of the Valuing All God's Children guidance as an endorsement of child gender transition is incorrect. 

Earlier this month, a Christian couple, backed by Christian Concern, wrote an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury calling on the Church of England to remove the guidance for its 4,700 schools. 
They argued the guidance encouraged gender transition as it stated that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender. However Rev Nigel says this interpretation is "simply false".

"Valuing All God's Children does not say that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender. It doesn't use the language of affirmation at all, anywhere.

"This is a misrepresentation of a resource which is designed to help schools ensure all children are treated with the dignity they deserve," Rev Nigel wrote on the Church of England's website. 

The parent's open letter came after they won a case against the Department for Education. They had raised concerns after they and their six-year-old son were labelled "transphobic" by a Church of England primary school for refusing to "believe" in transgender affirming policies.

The victory led to a £22,000 settlement for legal costs and a commitment from the government to reform its transgender policies.

For Rev Nigel the guidance, is a "valued resource" for schools that gives "practical advisory framework, underpinned by our Christian theological conviction, to be a resource for schools".  

First issued in 2014 following reports of a rise of anti-LGBT bullying in 2014, the guidance for secondary schools also states that is important "that pupils can explore issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and other factors that make healthy self-embodiment challenging".

It continues: "Specifically it is important that pupils understand the issues for those who feel they are trans/transgender and may be in the process of transition, understanding the impact that bullying has on them."

In the letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the parents called on him to scrap the guidance as "a matter of urgency" so "that staff and children in Church of England schools are properly safeguarded and protected from harmful transgender ideology and practice".

They also requested a meeting with him. 

Rev Nigel concluded: "The Church of England's advisory structures must be open and accountable, and it is only right that our guidance should be open to scrutiny and challenge. However, when schoolrooms become legal battlegrounds, this is seldom to the benefit of children.   

"This is an area in which we acknowledge there are a range of views, and schools are not exempt from scrutiny and challenge. We have welcomed the Government's indication that updated guidance will be issued on transgender matters and about how schools should respond to them. All our policies are reviewed regularly, and in light of updated legislation and Government guidance."

The Valuing All God's Children was rewritten in 2017 and revised in 2019. 

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