Credit: Ted Eytan (CC BY-SA 4.0) (L) and Aontu (R)

Teaching primary school children about trans issues “ignores consent of most parents” – Tóibín

The Government’s plans to teach primary school children about transgender issues ignores the consent of most parents, Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín has said, with the TD hitting out at the proposals after sustained controversy this week.

The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today launched the new Primary Curriculum Framework for all primary and special schools. In a statement issued today, the Government said:

“The Primary Curriculum Framework will shape the work of all primary and special schools for the coming years. This is the first curriculum framework for primary education in Ireland.

“Under the framework, schools will have a dedicated structure underpinning learning, teaching and assessment”.

The Government publication of the new Framework follows a steep outpouring of criticism over its approach, and its perceived failure to listen to parents.

TD Peadar Tóibín today accused the Government of seeking to bring in huge changes without real debate, and without getting consent from patents.

“The Government is seeking to implement radical change in our primary education system without any real debate. They are doing this against the consent of most parents,” he said today.

The TD pointed to research by multiple polling companies in Ireland showing that “most parents think that 8- and 9-year-old children are too young to learn about what it means to be transgender”.

 “Parents’ wishes should be at the centre of any changes to the education system. Pluralism is also key. Parents should have the choice of ethos within education,” the TD said.

He went on to state that “many people” do not trust the government’s approach to the issue, as he pointed to the comments from top consultant, Professor Donal O’Shea, of the National Gender Service, in recent weeks. Professor O’Shea, speaking on national radio, accused politicians in leadership of failing to listen to the concerns of medics, adding that the approach to transgenderism was not based on science, but driven by select NGOs and campaigners.

“Leading doctors including some from National Gender Service have said that the government’s approach to transgenderism is not evidence based. The Government’s approach is highly ideological. Professor Donal O’Shea stated at an Oireachtas Committee that activists are ‘brainwashing’ politicians and HSE management when it comes to proposed new gender recognition laws,” the TD said.

The Aontú leader said that while Ireland’s education system “needs to be one of respect and compassion,” concerns have been voiced about the proposals by teachers and parents.

“I have spoken to secondary school teachers who have been told on ‘in service days’ not to use the words mother and father in class, that they are not inclusive enough,” the Meath West TD said. “The NCCA has links on their website to source material for teachers that advise teachers not to use the words boys and girls in class for the same reason”.

He accused the Irish government of bringing “culture wars” into Irish politics, stating:

“I asked the Taoiseach in the Dáil what research the Department of Education had undertaken as to the impact on children as young as 8 or 9 years old being taught about transgenderism. The Taoiseach refused to answer because no research has been undertaken.

 “The Government is embarking on radical change against the wishes of most parents without debate or research. The government is bringing Culture Wars into the Irish political system for ideological reasons. Our duty of care to those in these challenging circumstances demands more than this”.

Mr Tóibín also hit out at the attempts to remove the word ‘woman’ from Irish maternity legislation, which he said was only reversed by the government “due to backlash”.

 “This government tried to delete the word woman from maternity legislation and only reversed due to the backlash. The HSE removed the word “woman” from cervical cancer information. The government seeks to provide a right to transition from one gender to another for some children under 18 without parental consent and against medical advice,” he said.

The TD said that “much of the Western world” is now retreating from the policy of gender affirmation, and Ireland needs to listen to the experiences of other nations.

He said that the lack of debate and the failure to listen to the concerns expressed by parents – with over 3,000 submissions made to the NCCA’s secondary level consultation – is “not how a functioning liberal democracy works”.

The Primary Curriculum Framework was developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) over a six-year period. The government claims that it draws on an extensive body of national and international research, working with a network of 60 primary schools, post-primary schools and preschools nationally, engaging closely with education partners and wider stakeholders, and conducting extensive consultation, including with primary school-aged children.

Speaking today, Education Minister Norma Foley said: “The voices from the consultation, in particular, indicate the need for a curriculum that supports all children, celebrates children’s current childhood experiences and prepares them for their future experiences.

“The development of the primary curriculum also reflects the other interconnected developments in education and the progress of policies and strategies being worked on by my Department at this time”.

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