UK plans to end gender ideology in schools, set age-based sex education rules

gender ideology school Credit: Shutterstock

The United Kingdom’s Department of Education intends to prohibit the promotion of gender ideology within public schools, set age-based guidelines for sex education, and protect parental rights, according to proposed guidance for schools.

A proposed update to Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) lesson guidance, which is now undergoing an eight-week public comment period, would prohibit schools from teaching that “gender is a spectrum.” Rather, if asked about gender identity, schools would need to “teach the facts about biological sex” and could not present alternative views about gender as being facts. 

“Material suggesting that someone’s gender is determined by their interests or clothing choices should not be used as it risks leading pupils who do not comply with sex stereotypes to question their gender when they might not have done so otherwise,” the proposed guidance reads. 

The proposal states that “schools should not teach about the broader concept of gender identity” and calls the concept “a highly contested and complex subject.” The proposal adds that schools “should be clear that an individual must be 18 before they can legally reassign their gender.” For students under the age of 18, it states “a child’s legal sex will always be the same as their biological sex and, at school, boys cannot be legally classified as girls or vice versa.”

When using “external resources,” the proposed guidance would instruct schools to “avoid materials that use cartoons or diagrams that oversimplify this complex concept or that could be interpreted as being aimed at younger children.” It also states that “schools should consult parents on the content of external resources on this topic in advance and make all materials available to them on request.”

The guidance also states that schools should teach students about laws related to protected groups, which includes those facing discrimination for gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion, sex, and other characteristics. 

Per the proposed guidance, schools would not provide any sex education until Year 5, when the students are usually 9 or 10 years old. The proposal also sets age-based guidelines for the type of sex education students receive. 

However, parents can opt their children out of all or some sex education lessons, except for lessons that are part of the science curriculum (which teach about topics such as puberty and sexual reproduction) — this is already part of existing guidance. A student who is at least 16 years old can opt themselves back into the sex education lessons with or without parental approval, which is also part of existing guidance.

The guidelines would establish new protections for parental rights. Per the proposal, schools would need to make all sex education material available for parents to review.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said in a statement that the proposal “puts protecting children at its heart, and enshrines parents’ right to know what their children are being taught.”

“It will support schools with how and when to teach often difficult and sensitive topics, leaving no doubt about what is appropriate to teach pupils at every stage of school,” Keegan said. “Parents can be reassured once and for all their children will only learn age-appropriate content.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that he was “horrified” to hear reports last year that schools were providing sex education to students that was inappropriate for their ages.

“I will always act swiftly to protect our children and this new guidance will do exactly that, while supporting teachers to teach these important topics sensitively and giving parents access to curriculum content if they wish,” Sunak said.

Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is a nonprofit based in London, expressed support for the proposed guidelines. 

“We are glad and relieved that primary school children will now be protected from such lessons,” CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement. “But this must only be a beginning. So much harm has been done and so much confusion sown. Schools must return to their Christian roots and the biblical beliefs on identity and sexual ethics, which set children and stable families up for life.”

The changes come just months after England ended the prescription of sex-change drugs to minors back in March. Scotland soon followed, ending such prescriptions in April. The policy changes stem from an independent review from Dr. Hilary Cass, which found insufficient evidence to support the efficacy and safety of providing these drugs to children. 

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