East Sussex school where student's opinion called 'despicable' in discussion about classmate's claim that she 'identifies as a cat' to be investigated by Government

An East Sussex school where a teacher called a student’s opinion ‘despicable’ in a discussion about gender and a classmate’s claim that she ‘identifies as a cat’ is facing a Government investigation.
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Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, has ordered the probe into Rye College following the row at the school, which was captured in a recording.

In the discussion the teacher said she would report the student to school leaders.

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The student was also told she would no longer be welcome at the school by the teacher if she continued to express her view on the subject.

Rye College. Picture: Sussex WorldRye College. Picture: Sussex World
Rye College. Picture: Sussex World

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said that teachers should not teach ‘contested views as fact’ and confirmed that the Government will be launching an investigation into the East Sussex school.

The recording at Rye College begins with the teacher reprimanding the student, saying: “How dare you? You just really upset someone, saying things like (you) should be in an asylum.”

In response, the girl said: “I didn't say that, I just said if they want to identify as a cow or something, then they are genuinely unwell, and they're crazy.”

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The teacher then said the student was ‘questioning’ her classmate’s ‘identity’ before saying: “Where did you get this idea from that there are only two genders?”

The debate became heated when the girl and some classmates disagreed.

The teacher said: “Cisgender [where identity corresponds with the sex registered at birth] is not necessarily the way to be. You are talking about the fact that cisgender is the norm, that you identify with the sexual organ you were born with, that’s basically what you’re saying, which is really despicable.

"Why do you think we have so many problems in the world with homophobia?”

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In the recording, the students said their mothers would agree with them, which the teacher labelled as ‘sad’.

The teacher then said: “You are confusing sex and gender. If you don’t like it you need to go to a different school. I am reporting you to (senior staff), you need to have a proper educational conversation about equality, diversity and inclusion because I’m not having that expressed in my lesson.”

The argument took place in a class on life education, where students were told that ‘who you want to be and how you identify is up to you’.

The news of the investigation comes after the Telegraph revealed that in other schools in the UK teachers are allowing children to identify as animals.

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Downing Street has also told headteachers that they should not be teaching children that they can identify as cats or other animals, as reported in the Telegraph.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The safety and wellbeing of students is our top priority. We’ve been clear that teachers should not teach contested views as fact and it’s important that parents and carers are reassured their children aren’t being influenced by the personal views of those teaching them.

“Following concerning reports regarding Rye College, the Education Secretary has asked the regional director to look into the matter further to establish the full details of the case and whether the school requires any additional support.”

Rye College is a member of the Aquinas Church of England Education Trust, a group of 11 schools.

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A spokesperson for Rye College and the Aquinas Trust, said: "We are committed to offering our pupils an inclusive education. Teachers endeavour to ensure that pupils’ views are listened to, and encourage them to ask questions and engage in discussion. Teachers also aim to answer questions sensitively and honestly."We strive to uphold the highest standards across the school. We will be reviewing our processes and working with the relevant individuals to ensure such events do not take place in the future."