Teaching primary school children that gender is a choice may be in breach of government guidance, the Attorney General has said.
Schools should not be “indoctrinating” their pupils with “one-sided and controversial” views about gender, according to Suella Braverman.
She said the belief that children can decide which gender they are, irrespective of their biological sex, is a “highly contested outlook” and should not be taught to youngsters as unquestionable fact.
In a speech at the think-tank Policy Exchange on Wednesday, she said that such ideas are being taught in some schools “without any democratic scrutiny” or consideration of the consequences.
She pointed out that this is despite the Department for Education’s guidance, published earlier this year, which states that partisan political views should only be covered in schools if they are presented with the appropriate context and with relevant opposing views.
“It is important to be clear what are scientifically tested and established facts, and what are questionable beliefs,” Ms Braverman said.
“In my view, a primary school where they are teaching Year 4 pupils, aged eight and nine, ‘key words’ such as transgender, pansexual, asexual, gender expression, intersex, gender fluid, gender dysphoria, questioning or queer, would be falling foul of government guidance.
“Nor is it not age-appropriate to teach four-year-olds that people can change sex or gender. In line with Department for Education Guidance, primary schools do not need to set exercises relating to children’s ‘self-identified gender’.”
‘Cornered into accepting dogma’
She said that in these instances, teachers are breaching their duty of impartiality and “indoctrinating children into a one-sided and controversial view of gender”.
Ms Braverman, who ran for the Tory leadership and made it to the last six before being voted out, has endorsed Liz Truss and been tipped for a position in her Cabinet.
Officials at the Department for Education are currently drawing up guidance for schools on transgender children, which will need to be signed off by the Attorney General before it is published in draft form later this year.
Ms Braverman said that once the guidance is published, Ofsted inspectors “must step in” and hold headteachers to account if schools refuse to follow it.
She explained that she has heard from teachers who are “petrified” of saying the wrong thing about transgender issues and “feel cornered into accepting dogma”.
“They feel that they have no option but to teach something they fundamentally disagree with, they think is harmful and they know to be wrong,” she said.
“And we can’t be living in a climate like that, we can’t be living in a country where teachers and parents and young people feel gagged.”
She cautioned schools against a “generic misunderstanding of legal duties” in dealing with children who are gender questioning.
Ms Braverman said she hoped her speech would “provide legal clarity to schools and parents” and “free up schools to act in each and every child's best interest”.
Her speech comes after a landmark review found that the Gender Identity Development Service, the NHS’s only facility for transgender children, at the Tavistock Centre in London, must be shut down on the basis that it is “not safe” for children.
She used her speech to clarify that schools that only offer “gender neutral” lavatories are acting unlawfully and teachers who allow students to “socially transition” to the opposite gender without their parents’ consent could be in breach of their duty of care to the child and open themselves up to a negligence claim.
Ms Braverman argued that referring to transgender children as their preferred pronoun is a “serious intervention” and should not be done unless on the advice of an independent medical practitioner.