As the new school year draws near, promised government guidance on transitioning in schools has again been delayed. Lizzie Harewood says Christian teachers are growing concerned


Source: Alamy

The long-awaited government guidance on gender in schools, promised for Autumn 2022, has faced another setback, causing continued uncertainty among educators, students and the public. Christian teachers, central to this debate, are growing frustrated and, in some instances, fearful.

In May, I expressed optimism about the impending government guidance for teachers on transgender issues, hoping it would integrate the practical Cass Review and NHS interim service specification, both cautious about social transition (changing your name, pronouns, which toilet you use, etc).

Initially, there were discussions about advising against social transitioning in schools, but this idea was challenged by Attorney General, Victoria Prentis, who deemed an outright ban unlawful. This contradicted the former Attorney General, Suella Braverman MP, who last year warned that schools endorsing transgender identity in confused children might breach the law and face sanctions.

The problem is more than a rejection of God’s creative design; it is a rejection of God himself

In response to a written question that asked whether it will “publish guidance to clarify whether teachers may refer to pupils by their legal and biological gender”, the government didn’t explicitly express support for teachers using these genders in addressing students.

I represent a growing body of Christian teachers who also feel an increasing element of disquiet about this. 


My family, colleagues and friends would all agree - my husband rather vehemently! - that the repeated delay has created great frustration. I am concerned at the rise in correspondence I’ve received on this issue from Christians currently working in education. While I might have ideological differences with teaching unions regarding transgender issues, it’s difficult to ignore the valid worry they express about staff being left without clarity. Paul Whiteman, the head of the NAHT school leaders’ union, expressed his disappointment with the delay, implying that “internal government conflicts” might be the cause.

Despite my sleepless nights and bouts of complaining, I’m a big believer in the rule of law, and I sympathise with our elected representatives as they seek to make decisions that placate all sides of the debate. Politics is a tricky business and, as per the New Testament, our general approach is to be cooperative and obedient citizens. But it’s hard when the buck is being passed from one department to another. It’s hard when teachers I speak to feel that they are in limbo. And it’s hard when there’s so much evidence to support the potential for “catastrophic outcomes” of endorsing trans-affirming policies in schools.


Many Christian teachers’ reactions go beyond the commonplace feelings of political frustration and tip over into very real fear about the consequences of ‘misgendering’- whether by accident or for reasons of conscience. Christian educators have been accused of transphobia, and have even faced professional misconduct allegations. The case of Joshua Sutcliffe, who was banned from teaching by the TRA for ‘misgendering’ a pupil recently, brought this issue to a rather dramatic head.

Joshua’s situation represents an extreme case; many Christians will find ways to resolve these issues with grace and pragmatism, without compromising their deeply held beliefs. But legitimate fear remains - and will so until we receive some clarity.

One talented and compassionate teacher I spent time with recently expressed fear about applying for a role as head of RSHE (Relationships, Health, Sex Education). Her concern was that transgender issues would be unavoidable and that, if pressed, she would have to share her views that sex was binary and immutable. Despite being well-suited for the role, the teacher was concerned about deviating from the prevailing cultural norms in the school and the potential job loss that could follow.


Yes, teachers are frustrated. Yes, there is very real fear of the social and cultural implications of not affirming a child’s chosen gender. But, at the moment, there is no sign of an immediate statutory threat to the conscience of most Christians in education.

This doesn’t mean that Christian teachers are ‘safe’. Far from it. They may be at further risk of isolation and marginalisation, ironically, particularly in certain educational environments that prioritise inclusivity and diversity. And if the law were to change for the worse, there could potentially be an increase in cases such as Joshua Sutcliffe’s.

There’s so much evidence to support the potential for “catastrophic outcomes” of endorsing trans-affirming policies in schools

But this should not surprise us. We are promised trials in this world. When Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” we should absolutely take him at his word. Nor should it deter Christians from being faithful to Christ in a society where the dominating forces of our culture - education, the media, and the entertainment industry - are increasingly leading us away from Christianity’s influence. The problem is more than a rejection of God’s creative design; it is a rejection of God himself.

In these times, Christian teachers must be patient, graciously holding fast to biblical truths. We should avoid affirming trans children to be a different gender; it is unbiblical and potentially damaging. However, we must also show the humility of Christ, praying for our earthly government and our pupils experiencing real pain.

We may never ‘win’ the battle on the issue of gender identity. But winning the crown of righteousness? Well, if we hold fast to Christ, that’s something we can certainly be sure of.