Boys at South Yorkshire C of E schools 'should be allowed to wear tutus, tiaras and heels', says shock church report

Javed Khan, chief executive of children's charity Barnardo's.
Javed Khan, chief executive of children's charity Barnardo's.

Boys at faith schools across South Yorkshire should be allowed to wear tutus, tiaras and heels if they want to, according to a controversial report by the Church of England.

In addition girls should be able to wear a tool belt and fireman's helmet if they choose as C of E primary school children should not be restricted by their gender when dressing up, the document ruled.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

The report, entitled 'Valuing All God’s Children', sets out 12 recommendations for how teachers can challenge transphobic and homophobic bullying and has been produced after a growing trend nationally in the number of children coming forward to express doubt about their assigned gender.

The document, which has been sent to 40 C of E primary and secondary schools across South Yorkshire attended by more than 8000 pupils, said: "Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.

"For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining."

The church acknowledges that this is a "sensitive topic" and it has split opinion among charities, religious groups and other organisations.

Huw Thomas,

Huw Thomas,

But Huw Thomas, director for education in the Diocese of Sheffield and former headteacher at faith school Emmaus Primary in Wybourn, defended the document as promoting the right anti-bullying message.

He said: "This is anti-bullying week and this report sounds a significant voice against bullying. I fail to see how anyone could oppose this."

He added church leaders will be asking school governors in the area to "act on its recommendations."

Introducing the document, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide."

The document urges pupils to refrain from using terms such as ‘tranny’,‘it’ or‘he-she’ and advises that teachers should "avoid labels and assumptions which deem children’s behaviour irregular, abnormal or problematic just because it does not conform to gender stereotypes or today’s play preferences."

The recommendations include giving extra training to teachers to help them deal with 'homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying' among students.

Relationships and sex education should also take LGBT people into account more, the report adds.

It highlights how action is necessary as a study showed 45 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans pupils are bullied at school for being LGBT.

Meanwhile, fewer than a third of bullied LGBT pupils - 29 per cent - said that teachers intervened when they were present during the bullying.

Javed Khan, chief executive of children's charity Barnardo's, said: "Respecting the unique worth of every person is an integral part of Barnardo's values, so we wholeheartedly welcome this move by the Church of England."

A spokesman for Stonewall, which campaigns for LGBT rights, said the report sent "a clear signal that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying must never be tolerated."

But Andrea Williams, chief executive of the lobby group Christian Concern, said: "We are getting to the point where if you are not careful the slightest slip from the correct agenda in a C of E school will get you punished.

'The anti-bullying agenda is aimed against people who step out of line – the anti-bullies are becoming the bullies.'