Robin Walker – 2022 Comments on Teaching Gender Identity in Schools

The comments made by Robin Walker, the Minister of State for School Standards, at the Education Committee meeting on 15 March 2022.

Schools should be teaching facts and information in that respect. As you said, quite a lot of the allegations or suggestions here are anecdotal. It is important to get to the bottom of each individual issue. We want schools to be able to support pupils, including the small number of pupils who may have gender identity issues and may need support in that respect. It is important that if they approach members of staff, they can be signposted to the right advice and support—which will not always be people in their school, by the way. I think it is important to reflect on that.

We also need to make sure that issues around sex and gender and identity are taught in an age-appropriate way, listening to the concerns of parents. That is one of the responsibilities we have set out in our guidance around RSHE, so that schools engage in that. I recognise that there are some really complex legal issues to do with the Equality Act in this space and I know that there are concerns about protecting, for instance, single-sex spaces in some schools.

We are doing a piece of work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to look into this space to see if we can provide any further guidance and support in this area. That will take some time because these are not straightforward and simple things, but it is important that we balance responsibility to protect the characteristics of sex with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, which is also protected under the Equality Act, and we make sure that we address the concerns that parents may have in this space.

There have been some examples where parents have had concerns—those have been raised—where Ofsted has stepped in from a safeguarding perspective or an improvement perspective. It is important that we look at those and take the evidence from those.

With regard to the political impartiality guidance, it is very clear that what we are setting out is that there should never be an attempt to indoctrinate or impose a particular view on children. Equally, we do have to respect protected characteristics under the Equality Act. That is the difficult area that schools are trying to navigate. I think we should be doing more as a Department to support them in that and I am very keen that we do that. That is why the Secretary of State undertaking to do this work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission is an important step forward on that.