Picture credit: Peter Cade/Getty
Artillery Row

Hey, regulator, leave those teachers alone

Against authoritarian tolerance in education

I think I might need to report the Teaching Regulation Agency as an extremist organisation. That’s the only conclusion I can draw from my recent brush with their tentacles. It feels as if I only evaded the kraken’s maw because it decided I was too tough to chew.

The charge they levelled against me claimed that I was “guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute,” and acting “contrary to fundamental British values.” What had I done? In 2019, I had delivered sermons in a school chapel which presented Christian teaching as acceptable. Oh, how terribly controversial. 

Ah, but not any old Christian teaching. A pupil had asked me to address “How come we’re told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?” And I thought, “Fair question – no one has to accept any ideological position. This is definitely make your own mind up territory.” So the sermon highlighted that, whilst we should always respect, indeed love as neighbours, those with whom we disagree, no one must accept someone else’s ideology. I noted that Christian beliefs sometimes conflict with those of many LGBT activists, such as on the nature of marriage, or the reality of biological sex, or the idea of gender identity. On these and other matters, you should make up your own mind.

And my word, did I get into trouble for saying such outrageous things! Reported to the police under the Prevent anti-terrorism duty, and to the Local Authority Designated Officer for child safeguarding. Happily for me, neither found any need even to investigate, but needless to say, I lost my job. For I was guilty of blasphemy against the sacred but oh-so-delicate creed of Queer. Most people who are gay or lesbian seem to me to be fairly sensible in such matters, even where they disagree with standard Christian teachings. It is the TQ+ which gets certain people so very hot under the collar (or sequined plunging neckline, perhaps). That’s no accident, because the smashing of heteronormativity — the idea that the male-female couple is central to the family as the fundamental building block of a healthy society — is at the heart of the Queer Theory project. 

And it’s here that the ideology is most obvious. That people are sexually attracted to their own sex, or suffer dysphoria about their bodily sex are factual matters. That they are actually attracted to “gender,” or have a true inner “gender identity” more real than the human body, which wholly explains their dysphoria, these are ideological notions. As, in fairness, are Christian beliefs about marriage, or the how-could-anyone-think-that idea that women are entitled to the privacy, dignity, and safety of single-sex spaces wherever their bodies are or might be exposed to others. Christian views on marriage may now be in the minority; I sincerely hope the dignity of flesh-and-blood women would still be upheld by the vast majority. But, yes, in a democracy, no viewpoint is beyond debate. Make up your own mind.

Having lost the job I loved, I took my case to an Employment Tribunal — and lost. It was unacceptable for me to use persuasive language like, “You may believe” in a sermon, apparently. That case is currently under appeal, and grinding through the legal process. But the school decided to put the boot in. Although they had been quite happy to keep employing me through 2019 and 2020 (when I was made redundant, using Covid as an excuse), the Head decided that I was so potentially dangerous that I need to be reported to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), to consider banning me from ever working in any school, and to the Disclosure and Barring Service, to try and have me banned from working with children under any circumstances (including in Church ministry). Talk about kicking a man when he’s down.

Never mind that this would break the law on political impartiality in schools

The TRA produced a charge sheet alleging “unacceptable professional conduct,” including by suggesting that “LGBT+ ideologies were incorrect and/or adverse to Christian beliefs.” Anyone who has even a vague sense of the Christian tradition would find that suggestion pretty unexceptionable, I would have thought. Another allegedly unprofessional suggestion was that, “Pupils did not have to accept views and/or ideologies of LGBT+ activists.” If your jaw didn’t drop, read that last one again. According to the TRA, a teacher is unprofessional unless he or she asserts that pupils must accept LGBT+ ideology. Never mind that this would break the law on political impartiality in schools. After all, a teacher in breach of the law would be reported to … the TRA. It’s not enough that woke ideology is being pushed by activists going into schools to deliver “training,” and by the school staff themselves. Now the regulator is at it too.

In my robust response to the charges, I highlighted the facts that I was describing mainstream Christian beliefs (you know, the sort of thing we used to do in education) and actually modelling the application of the fundamental British values, as a teacher ought to do. Don’t apologise to the woke mob, never roll over. They clearly decided they would have to tie themselves in knots, in a public hearing, to get at me. So in a convoluted decision that it was misconduct, but had been dealt with at a local level, they decided there was no case to answer.

The Department for Education’s guidance Political Impartiality in Schools says “Examples of extreme political positions include, but are not limited to: … opposition to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly or freedom of religion and conscience …” The TRA’s position that pupils must accept LGBT+ ideologies would seem to fly in the face of freedom of conscience. Their charges against me have a chilling effect on freedom of speech. They have a case to answer, even if I don’t. But given the capture of the institutions, to whom could I possibly report them?

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