Vicar quits over transgenderism policy at Church of England school

The Rev John Parker(Photo: Christian Concern)

A vicar in the Church of England has resigned as a governor at one of its primary schools following a dispute over how it handled the transition of a pupil. 

The Rev John Parker, who has also resigned as a minister in the Church of England, said he and other governors questioned the approach of the school leadership to refrain from informing other pupils and their parents prior to the child's transition. 

He said their objections were repeatedly ignored, prompting them to seek legal advice from the Christian Legal Centre.  

This advice was passed on to the school but the headteacher informed governors in March that a parent of the transgender child had insisted that other parents not be informed until the day the child publicly announced their transition.

The headteacher said that both the Department for Education and the Church of England diocesan education authority for the area had advised that the school was obliged under equality laws to implement the policy.

Governors were also informed that staff training would be provided by Mermaids.  During the training session, Christian Legal Centre reports that staff were told that the school did not need to widely share details of the child's transition and that those informed beforehand should be restricted to the head teacher, the child's class teacher and their pastoral and sports teachers. Governors only needed to be informed that a pupil was transitioning. 

Rev Parker said that at the time the child announced their transition, no agreed procedures or policies were in place at the school, including around the use of facilities like toilets or changing rooms.

He said he had not been given the freedom to express his views about the school's handling of the situation. 

"I felt it was no longer a Christian place of truth but a place of fear and intimidation. This was compounded at the Mermaids training session," he said.

"Given the Christian ethos of the school, and the fact that a certain percentage of parents have sent their children to a CofE School because they sought for their children a Christian education in line with their own beliefs, the issue needed to be handled with those sensitivities in mind, and it has not been." 

The Christian Legal Centre said that prior to the child announcing their transition, children at the school were given two books to read, Big Bob, Little Bob, which tells the story of a smaller boy dressing as a girl, and Red: A Crayon's Story, telling the story of a red crayon wanting to be a blue crayon.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "This is not an isolated case and we are going to see more and more like it if nothing is done. Parents have a right to know if and when this ideological movement is in their schools and being taught as fact.

"I believe that a real threat is posed to schools from organisations such as Mermaids. They implement a new ideological tyranny - and any disagreement is at best silenced and at worst, punished.

"The number of children confused about their sex and gender and seeking treatment is escalating and it is our children that are suffering and are bewildered. In imposing this ideology, we are not being kind to our children but cruel. It is time for this to stop.

"The Church of England has one million children in its care. This is a serious God-given duty which the church is failing at. It has invited the new state ideology into the classroom and it has lost confidence in its own message of what it means to be human. The Church needs to act before it is too late."

The Rev Tim Elbourne, Director of Education for the Diocese of Chelmsford, said: "Church of England schools are inclusive environments which nurture pupils to respect diversity of all kinds.

"Our schools must comply with the legal requirements of the Equalities Act 2010.

"Additionally, The Church of England, through its policy 'Valuing all God's Children', updated in 2017, gives guidance for Church of England Schools.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of a matter concerning any child."

Mermaids appears in the Valuing all God's Children policy as an anti-bullying resource. 

A spokesperson for the school, which is remaining unnamed to protect the privacy of the children, said: "We understand the concerns and convictions of the people on our governing body and we are very sorry he has left us.

"We respect that everyone will have their own opinions regarding transgender pupils and how a sensitive issue should be managed and communicated.

"We have embarked on a process of communication surrounding the rights of transgender pupils and input from outside the school has been carefully managed.

"As a Church school, we believe that if we have disagreements around personal choice and individual rights, that these are managed respectfully." 

The Mermaids charity also issued a response in which it said: "We are very proud of the training we offer to schools and we have a proven record of helping teachers to support vulnerable children who simply want to get along with their lessons like any of their classmates."

It added: "We are always looking for ways to improve the training we offer and only base the information we share on the best research, legal bases and guidance."