Church of England clarifies guidance on transphobic bullying after outrage from conservatives

The Church of England is clarifying guidance for schools on transphobic bullying after anger from conservatives at the suggestion boys should be able to wear tutus and princess's tiaras.

Advice to combat bullying for younger children that includes 'getting the dressing box out' does not apply to older, teenage children, the CofE's education mandarin said on Monday.

The clarification comes after guidance for the Church's 4,700 schools on fighting transphobic bullying says primary school children 'should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision'.

ReutersThe Church of England said advice on dressing up for younger children did not necessarily apply to older pupils.

It says: 'For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess's tiara and heels and/or the fireman's helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self imagining.'

It adds: 'Children should be afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence. They are in a "trying on" stage of life, and not yet adult and so no labels need to be fixed.'

But Nigel Genders, the Church's chief education officer, denied it was 'banning school uniform' and said it was crucial CofE schools were welcoming to everyone.

He wrote on the Church's Facebook page: 'Our guidance is practical. It says that children should be able to explore their identities as they grow up. For smaller children this may involve getting the dressing box out. For older pupils it might mean having informed conversations to grow in knowledge and respect for each other.

'Of course, we shouldn't conflate the two.

'Children should be allowed to be children. What a four-year-old might try on when they dress up may be rather different from what they would wear as a teenager.

'Indeed that's the point of this guidance - children should be free to explore and play without adults making assumptions about them or being bullied by others. Nor is this about "banning" school uniform.'

He added that one in ten transgender pupils receive death threats and it was vital schools 'create welcoming communities where human identity in all its forms is celebrated'.

He wrote: 'I know we will not all agree on issues to do with human sexuality, marriage or gender identity. However, there needs to be a faithful and loving commitment to remain in relationship with the other and honour the dignity of their humanity without "back turning", dismissing the other person, or claiming superiority.'

It comes after some conservatives voiced outrage at the guidance, published to coincide with anti-bullying week.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the lobby group Christian Concern, said the new advice was 'unkind, unloving and lacking in compassion'.

She said: 'We are all against bullying, but the Church is using these guidelines to pursue an agenda that runs counter to the Church's teaching.'

She added: 'We are getting to the point where if you are not careful the slightest slip from the correct agenda in a Church of England school will get you punished.

'The anti-bullying agenda is aimed against people who step out of line – the anti-bullies are becoming the bullies.'