Starmer vows to ban ‘gender ideology’ being taught in schools

The Labour leader was visiting Kettering Buccleuch Academy on Monday
The Labour leader was visiting Kettering Buccleuch Academy on Monday - Labour Party

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to ban “gender ideology” from being taught in schools, even though his party can’t define what the term means.

The Labour leader told The Telegraph during a visit to a school in Kettering, Northants on Monday that he was “not in favour of ideology being taught in our schools on gender”.

The issues of gender and what a woman is have troubled Labour under Sir Keir’s leadership, with the opposition leader criticised over a number of his past remarks on the issue.

However, when asked by The Telegraph whether he would uphold the Tories’ proposals on a classroom ban, which makes it clear that teachers must explain the idea that people can be born the wrong sex is contested, Sir Keir suggested Labour would wait for a consultation on the plans to report its findings.

“I think it’s in consultation so there isn’t an outcome of that yet but I do not believe we should be teaching gender ideology in our schools,” he said.

Sir Keir’s comments appeared to be an attempt to clarify Labour’s position on the matter after Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, suggested the party would rip up the Government’s plans to ban gender ideology from being taught in the classroom.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, on BBC1
Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, on BBC1 - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

Asked three times by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday if she would implement the Tory proposals, Ms Phillipson refused to answer directly. She said: “There are trans people within society and their existence should be recognised.”

The Government published a draft update to current relationships, sex and health education [RSHE] guidelines last month calling for a ban on “gender identity” being taught in schools.

It would in effect overturn current RSHE guidelines, which state that children “should be taught the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way”.

The Department for Education (DfE) is currently taking views on the proposed update, with a consultation due to close on July 11.

The draft guidance suggests that while pupils should be taught about gender reassignment, which is a protected characteristic under UK law, “schools should teach the facts about biological sex and not use any materials that present contested views as fact, including the view that gender is a spectrum”.

“The contested topic of gender identity should not be taught,” the proposals add. Although the guidance does not explicitly mention gender ideology, Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, has previously used it interchangeably with the term gender identity.

‘Gender can change daily’

Ms Keegan said last month that she launched the review into sex education following suggestions pupils were being taught that there could be “72 genders” and that gender could “change daily” as facts.

But Labour attempted to draw a distinction between the two terms on Monday, although the party refused to spell out what Sir Keir meant by gender ideology, when pressed.

“There are people who struggle with their gender identity and that is a lived reality that education of course should reflect in an age-appropriate way,” a spokesman said.

“But that is different from somehow saying that there is some sort of gender ideology – whatever that means – that we are trying to promote, which we absolutely are not.”

Asked for further clarification, a Labour spokesman added: “Nothing should be taught in an ideological way in schools, including gender. Current RSHE guidance requires under law that children are taught in an age-appropriate way the facts about ‘sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity’. Labour’s priority is the safety and wellbeing of every child.”

The comments appeared to confirm Labour would ditch Tory proposals to ban gender identity from being taught in the classroom if Sir Keir becomes prime minister next week.

Former Guardian columnist quits Labour

It has caused further confusion over the party’s plans for sex education and teaching on gender in schools, and comes amid backlash over Labour’s stance on gender more broadly.

Last night , it emerged that Dr Hilary Cass has expressed concerns about a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy - something Labour would bring into force if elected.

The paediatric consultant, whose landmark review found that children who think they are transgender should not be rushed into treatment they may regret, told The Times that clinicians working with young people would be “really worried” about becoming a “test case”.

She said: “It’s just beyond me to know how on earth to do it [legislate for the ban] because it’s about intent - [it’s about] if you’re intending to change somebody’s gender identity.

“I think clinicians will be really worried that if they have conversations with a young person and then they change their gender identity, then they could accuse the person of conversion. Nobody wants to be the first test case. That’s the real challenge.”

Labour committed to a “fully trans-inclusive ban” in its election manifesto, despite fears it could stop children who are questioning their gender from getting help.

The party has also vowed to make it easier to change gender by overhauling the transition process, claiming the current system is “intrusive and outdated”.

Writing for The Express, Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, warned that the proposals would “create a safeguarding nightmare for trans people as well as women and girls”.

“Keir Starmer’s plan to simplify the process by which people can change their gender shows, yet again, that the Labour Party does not care about the real impact of their policies, just on virtue-signalling to activist groups like Stonewall,” she said.

“Labour’s proposal will water-down the safeguards that prevent bad faith actors taking advantage of the gender recognition process.

“It risks creating a loophole for predators to infiltrate women-only spaces.”

A prominent journalist and author announced she had quit the party on Monday, saying Labour had “betrayed women” over its position on trans rights.

Joan Smith, a former Guardian columnist and the author of novels such as A Masculine Ending, said she had warned Sir Keir about misogyny in his party, but he had ignored her.

She wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “That’s me done. I wrote to Keir Starmer and spoke to him in person. I warned him about misogyny. He never replied.

“Labour has betrayed women with a raft of policies designed to appease trans-identified men. I don’t suppose Starmer cares, but I’ve resigned my membership today.”

JK Rowling would struggle to back party

Her departure comes after JK Rowling, a former Labour member and donor, said she would struggle to vote for the party “as long as Labour remains dismissive and often offensive towards women” fighting to retain their rights amid concern over demands by trans activists.

However, speaking on The Sun’s Never Mind the Ballots on Monday night Sir Keir Starmer said that he would “welcome” a discussion with JK Rowling over women’s rights and trans issues.

Asked whether Labour would meet with Rowling to discuss trans issues, Sir Keir said: “Of course, of course I’d meet with her. Of course I would.”

He added: “She’s made some really important points. I’d welcome that discussion, because I do think that we’ve made huge progress on women’s rights under Labour governments, and equality, massive progress. There’s more work to be done if we are privileged to come in to serve this country, and I want to make sure that we can bring people together.”

On Sunday night Labour’s Rosie Duffield criticised Ms Phillipson for dismissing the trans row as a “culture war”.

Ms Phillipson told the BBC that teachers wanted guidance on how to deal with gender-questioning children, while adding: “But let’s make sure that children’s wellbeing is at the heart of this. Let’s stop this being a political football.”

‘We’ve been slow to recognise women’s concerns’

Ms Duffield – who has been repeatedly rebuffed by the party for campaigning for single-sex spaces – responded on X, saying fighting for the rights of women is not a “culture war”.

She tweeted: “Women’s rights. Rights to single-sex services, spaces, prisons, refuges, hospital wards, same sex relationships, intimate care, equal pay, are NOT, and never have been a ‘culture war’.”

Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, Wes Streeting, shadow secretary of state for health and social care, admitted: “I think we’ve been a bit too slow as a party to recognise that women have had concerns about sex-based rights, women’s-only spaces, and there have been some well-meaning, certainly, but ultimately misguided efforts to be trans inclusive that have erased women – and I think about NHS documents, for example, that have talked about people with cervixes or birthing people instead of women and mothers, and that’s actually been hugely counterproductive and offensive to lots of people.

“I think we’re in a much better position as a party at this election, where I think, and I’ve no doubt whatsoever, actually, if we have a Labour government, trans people will receive better and faster access to healthcare, and women’s sex-based rights will be protected, and we will navigate our way through this in a way that seeks to heal divisions and bring people together.”