PORCHESTER, England — Polk Central Schools has decided to close the school after it was forced to withdraw from a controversial funding deal because of a “no-string-attachment” deal with the government.
The agreement between the county’s Education Trust and the government in the UK, which was approved in December, was designed to allow local schools to offer “gender sensitivity” lessons.
But the agreement came under fire by the British Human Rights Commission and parents and campaigners who claimed it made it too easy for school staff to make sex-segregated classes even though they were only required to provide a “gender-neutral” curriculum.
The trustees said it was the “only way” for PCC to continue to teach the gender-neutral curriculum.
But a government spokeswoman said that was not true, adding that the agreement “does not allow schools to teach sex-neutral lessons.”
In a statement on Tuesday, PCC said it had decided to end the agreement, which came into effect last summer, because of the “difficult circumstances surrounding the funding”.
“The funding agreement with the Government of England and the Government’s Department for Education does not allow the PCCs school to teach gender-sensitive lessons in schools, or allow pupils to take a sex-sensitive course,” it said.”PCCs policy on sex-ed classes has been clear, the funding agreement is no longer available.”
This decision is in line with the policies of the PCTs trustees, which have a gender-specific curriculum and are committed to gender-positive education.
“In the last few years, the government has taken many important steps to improve equality for all children and we are confident the changes we have made will benefit pupils, staff and society.”
The agreement was part of a wider package of measures to improve access to education, including new guidance for schools and a new set of requirements for all schools, including a ban on boys attending boys’ schools and girls attending girls’ schools.
But the changes were met with strong opposition from parents, some of whom were given the choice to pay the extra fees to keep their children at school.
The British Humanities Union (BHU) and the Sutton Trust, which represents parents of children in the district, said the changes meant children who were “unable to attend” lessons because they were “gender sensitive” or who had a “gendered identity” were no longer allowed to attend.
“We have heard that children in these circumstances are ‘unable’ to learn about gender and sexuality, because they are not able to attend lessons,” said Sutton Trust Education Secretary Maryanne Ryan.
“We are calling on the Government to rethink these changes.”
“The Government’s new funding agreement only allows the schools to change their sex-specific curricula when they have been assured that they can change their curricula and that no-strings attached money is available to cover the costs of these changes,” she added.
A PCC spokesman said the new policy would not affect the district’s “gender and sexuality” teaching.
“The policy, which does not apply to pupils from non-selective gender-queer and trans-queerness schools, does not require pupils to attend sex-education classes and does not oblige pupils to use any particular sex-centred curriculum, nor does it require any individual to have a sex change,” the spokesman said.
“This is the only way the school can continue to provide gender-seminar lessons and this policy does not affect PCC’s gender- and sexuality teaching.”
The government has not yet said whether it will reverse the funding deal, which comes after an outcry from parents and the public, including one from the head of the BHU, which said it would no longer support schools that failed to comply with the policy.
The government says it has changed the funding arrangements to make them more “transparent” and “proportional” to local needs.
“There is no intention to change the funding arrangement between PCC and the DfE,” a spokesman said, adding: “The government believes that sex-related education is important for young people and that there is a need to improve it.”