Nigel and Sally Rowe. C: Christian Concern

‘Fully vindicated’: UK Parents win Government commitment to reform trans school guidance

A Christian couple have been awarded £22,000 in legal costs, along with a commitment from the UK government to reform transgender policies in primary schools, on the back of a five-year-long legal battle. 

In February, Nigel and Sally Row launched legal action against the Department for Education (DfE) after their six-year-old son was called ‘transphobic’ by his Church of England primary school for not being ‘trans affirming’. The UK government has now decided to settle the case after the Rowes won permission in February of this year at the High Court for a judicial review of the government’s transgender affirming policies. 

Back in 2017, the couple, both aged in their late forties, started educating their children at home after their son’s school said that children could be labelled ‘transphobic’ for not being trans affirmative. School officials told the couple that their son, then aged six, would be regarded as transphobic for expressing he was confused when a biologically male classmate started wearing a dress and identifying as a girl. 

The Rowes had expressed concerns with the school after two boys in their sons’ classes were allowed to come to the Isle of Wight school identifying as girls. The school had stated that it did not “require any formal medical/psychological assessment and reporting when a pupil seeks to be treated as transgendered.” 

The school also said it was working “at every stage” with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (TPHT) in supporting transitioning children at the school. In July, the NHS ordered that the controversial Tavistock clinic was to be shut down amid safety concerns for thousands of children who have received treatment at the clinic after a review found that it was “not safe”. 

The couple said they were left with no other choice but to home-school their two sons as they believed the school’s policies were harmful and directly opposed to how they wanted to raise their children’s understanding of human identity. 

However, the local Church of England diocese backed the school’s position, based on its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance on challenging transphobic, homophobic, and bi-phobic bullying. The guidance covers the Church of England’s 4,700 primary schools, and states that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender. 

Challenging Government-recommended transgender guidelines

The family wrote to the Department for Education in response to the treatment they received from the school, calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case. They also called on the Department to scrap the Cornwall Schools Transgender guidelines, which are currently held as best practise by the government. 

The guidelines, which were produced by LGBT activists and promoted by Stonewall, provide schools, teachers, and governors, with guidance on how transgender ideology can be ingrained in a schools’ culture. 

The policy advises on how to implement gender neutral toilets, encourage schools to accept gender transition without question and accept cross-dressing, as well as how to include links to groups such as Mermaids. 

According to Christian Concern, the Rowes also presented international expert evidence to the Department of Education which uncovered how trans affirming policies lead to “catastrophic outcomes” for gender-confused children. However, the government did not properly assess this evidence, and rejected the Rowes’ complaint saying that the school’s treatment of the two primary school children who had chosen to identify as the opposite gender ‘does not constitute education.’

Pursuing a judicial review of these decisions, in February, the Rowes were granted permission by Lord Justice Lane to bring a judicial review for their case to be heard in full at the High Court. Justice Lane subsequently ruled that the DfE’s decisions were judicially reviewable on the basis that transgender issues in schools are a matter of education, and therefore the responsibility of the state. 

Rather than facing a full judicial review hearing, the DfE has now settled the case, awarding the family £22,000 in legal costs, which they intend to donate to the Christian Legal Centre. The UK government has also committed to reform, stating that  ‘guidance for schools on transgender issues is being developed by the Department in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a view to undertaking a public consultation on draft guidance in Autumn 2022, to which the Claimants will have the opportunity to respond.’

Attorney General’s comments

In remarks delivered at the Policy Exchange last month, it is believed that the then Attorney General, Suella Braverman KC, indicated how these guidelines would be shaped. 

She said:

“The problem is that many schools and teachers believe – incorrectly – that they are under an absolute legal obligation to treat children who are gender questioning according to their preference, in all ways and all respects, from preferred pronouns to use of facilities and competing in sports. All this is sometimes taking place without informing their parents or taking into account the impact on other children. Anyone who questions such an approach is accused of transphobia. In my view, this approach is not supported by the law.”

She also added: “No child should be made to fear punishment or disadvantage for refusing to adopt a preferred pronoun for a gender questioning child.” And crucially that in this context, “the right to freedom of belief, thought, conscience and speech must be protected.”

‘We are delighted with the outcome”

In response to the outcome, Nigel and Sally Rowe said they were “delighted”.

“We are delighted with the outcome and pray that it will contribute to real change in primary schools,” the couple said, adding:

“The new guidance must ensure that no more children come to harm. Transgender affirming policies must end in schools and issues with gender confused children compassionately and professionally managed outside of the classroom.

“Many have tried to make light of this issue by suggesting it is just about boys dressing up. This case has always been about a dangerous ideology that is now firmly embedded in schools, local authorities, and Church of England leadership, and which is causing serious long-term harm to thousands of children.

“Referrals to gender identity clinics have gone through the roof in the past decade. In 2012 there were 250 referrals, compared to last year when there were 5,000 – this cannot be allowed to continue.

“Clear evidence of the harm transgender affirming policies has on children was presented to the government and they ignored it. Only by pursuing a judicial review has the government been forced to see sense and commit to protecting vulnerable children from LGBT activism in primary schools.

“Throughout the last five years we have been shocked by the hostility shown towards us for being prepared to raise concern publicly about the damage transgender ideology is causing in schools. We have never hated anyone, we wanted to tell the truth through love and compassion for children being impacted.

“As adults, we have a responsibility to look after children and protect them. Children don’t have the same capacity to think through the consequences of something like adults do. We want children to be allowed to be children. We don’t want harmful ideas to be imposed on them; children should be in an environment where they are safe.

“A child of primary school age doesn’t have the mental ability to work out what it is to be transgender.

“Promoting transgender ideology to children is harmful: it’s lying to children. Children are impressionable – and they look for affirmation. But when you’re affirming them to be the opposite gender, you’re lying to them. As Christians, we need to make a stand for truth – that is the loving thing to do.

“We’ve seen the regret of people who have gone down the transgender route; we’ve seen the rising statistics of children being pushed down that road – and the more you affirm a child as transgender, the further down that pathway they go. This is a health crisis. It’s about pushing an agenda in schools, and now the numbers are off the scale, it’s devastating.

“We have been moved by compassion to act and make a stand on this and believe we have now been vindicated.

“We call on more parents to scrutinise what is happening in their children’s schools on these crucial issues.

“It is now also time for the Church of England to scrap its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance, as on the growing evidence, they are in fact damaging all God’s children”, the couple said. 

The couple appeared on GB News to discuss the outcome of the legal battle, telling host Fr Calvin Robinson:

“The greatest tragedy is that the Church affirmed this […] If we really want to value all God’s children, we certainly don’t affirm these ideologies at such a young age”.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, credited the couple for being the “first parents to expose transgender ideology in our primary schools five years ago”. 

“At the time, for their courage and determination to expose the truth, they were ostracised by their local community and faced personal abuse for daring to question policies which they believed were harmful,” she said.

“They were ahead of the curve and could see the harm that was coming. Schools, local authorities, and the Church of England have believed and enforced Stonewall’s lie that if you question an affirmative approach to gender-confusion you could be breaking the law.

“The Church of England, who have over one million children under their care, backed the approach of the school in this case. ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ must now be scrapped in light of this outcome and the overwhelming evidence that the Church is supporting harm.

“The government and wider public are only now beginning to see the evidence that backs the arguments and concerns the Rowes’ made from the beginning on transgender ideology.

“It has taken people of great courage who love Jesus and his teaching, like Nigel and Sally, to say that transgender affirmation isn’t right.

“We will continue to hold local authorities, schools and the government to account if these commitments and promises are not adequately met.”

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