Students urged to wear 'full-blown drag' for school’s Pride day

New Mills School in the Peak District, Derbyshire, is encouraging students to wear something rainbow or colourful on its 'Pride day'
New Mills School in the Peak District, Derbyshire, is encouraging students to wear something rainbow or colourful on its 'Pride day'

Parents and MPs have reacted with fury after a secondary school urged children as young as 11 to wear “full-blown drag” for Pride day.

New Mills School, in the Peak District in Derbyshire, has sparked a warning from a leading MP over its “Drag ‘n’ Rainbows” themed non-uniform day on June 16, to mark June being global Pride month.

In a letter to all parents, shared with the Telegraph, the school said “we are encouraging all students of all genders to wear something rainbow or colourful” on what it is calling “Pride day”.

“They may express themselves by doing something small like wearing a tutu, make-up, or painting their nails, to going all out in full blown drag,” the letter said.

But it has sparked a backlash from parents and some staff members at the school, while the chairman of the Commons education select committee said he was “concerned” about Britain’s teachers going too far this Pride month.

‘Drag is an art form’

In the letter to parents, Thomas Robertson, a senior leader in New Mills’s science department, with the backing of the headteacher Heather Watts, insisted that “drag is an art form that is fundamental to the LGBT+ community that challenges the norm as a celebration and as a form of protest”.

He explained that a drag-themed catwalk would be staged with prizes on Pride day and “before school and during break and lunchtime, there will be free drag stations where any student of any gender can apply some glitter, eye shadow or paint their nails to fully express themselves”.

Mr Robertson said that Sab Samuel, an author who runs Drag Queen Story Hour UK, a group that sparked parent protests in council libraries and the Tate Britain, had been invited in to “explore homophobia and mental health” with Year 9 and Year 10 students aged 13 to 15.

The teacher added: “Please note facts and figures around homophobic bullying will be shared as will suicide data.”

One insider at the school told the Telegraph: “Last year involved non-uniform and a few cup cakes, but this year it’s in a whole different league. They are making drag the central theme which, I feel, is quite controversial. Drag is a highly sexualised parody of women; fine on the stage, not fine in schools.”

‘Safeguarding has gone out of the window’

But Tracy Shaw, from the parents’ group Safe Schools Alliance UK, said: “We are not sure where to start with this school’s celebration of Pride. Drag is a form of adult entertainment largely performed by men and its suitability for children is widely contested.

“We are extremely concerned that a drag queen has been invited to talk to children about suicide. There are strict guidelines in place for discussing suicide and no-one without specific and rigorous safeguarding and mental health training should be talking to children about the topic.

“Once again safeguarding has gone out of the window as the school appears to be more interested in demonstrating how ‘inclusive’ they are rather than thinking about what inclusivity means.”

Robin Walker, the head of the Commons education select committee, told the Telegraph it was “absolutely legitimate” for schools to discuss LGBT matters, but they must be “sensitive to the views of parents” and not go “beyond what most people would see as reasonable”.

He said: “One of the concerns we’ve heard widely is that there is a threshold but no ceiling as to what needs to get taught. It should be age-appropriate and discussed actively with parents. It sounds in this case like a school going well beyond that and of course that is a matter of concern.

“It’s an example of why greater clarity is needed in the DfE’s guidance on relationships, health and sex education (RHSE) and that’s very much something that the select committee has been pushing for.”

Ms Watts, the headteacher, confirmed that the school had received some “opposition [which] has been met with a tolerant and inclusive approach”, but insisted that “we have received far more correspondence in support of our day”.

She said the school’s RHSE was “age-appropriate”, adding: “We are firmly committed to equipping all our students with the knowledge they need to confidently ask questions.”