Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says gender identity 'should not be taught in schools at any age'

Gender identity "should not be taught in schools at any age", the education secretary has said after new draft guidance on relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) was published on Thursday.

The draft guidance for schools in England was compiled following concerns that children were being exposed to "inappropriate" content.

It states that sex education should be taught no earlier than year five, when pupils are aged nine, and what is described as the "contested topic of gender identity" should not be taught at all.

In her foreword on the document, Gillian Keegan said the guidance is about giving children the "right information at the right time" but also ensuring "childhood innocence" isn't taken away by being taught "too much too soon".

The NSPCC criticised imposing age limits, saying children and young people must be empowered to "recognise when something isn't right and seek help when it's needed".

The children's charity added now should be the time to "embed" lessons on life-enhancing skills rather than "back-track on RSE in schools".

Ms Keegan said while gender reassignment should be taught, "schools should not teach about the contested issue of gender identity, including that gender is a spectrum".

"Whilst protected characteristics such as gender reassignment should be taught, they must be done so on a factual basis, at an appropriate age and not based on contested ideology," she added.

Read more:
The gender treatments currently available to children
PM urges 'extreme caution' on gender treatments

'Evidence pupils being taught there could be 72 genders'

Ms Keegan launched the review after there had been "some evidence from some people" that pupils were being taught that there could be "72 genders" and gender could "change daily" as facts.

Speaking in the House of Commons after the guidance was published, Labour's shadow education minister Catherine McKinnell said: "Teaching children about the facts of the world in which they grow up must include an understanding that there are people who are transgender, that people can go through a process of change of their gender, and that the law provides for that."

Guidance on harmful sexual behaviour published

Subjects around what constitutes harmful sexual behaviour in relationships, the concepts and laws relating to sexual harassment, revenge porn, sexual exploitation and abuse, grooming, stalking and forced marriage should not be taught before year seven (age 11), the guidance states.

While the risks of inappropriate online content such as pornography can be discussed "in an age-appropriate way" from year seven, the details of sexual acts should not be discussed before year nine (age 13) it adds.

When it comes to laws relating to sexual violence, including rape and sexual assault, the guidance sets out it is important for pupils to understand the key principles around such offences including what consent means, but says "schools should not teach about this in any sexually explicit way before year nine".