A snap Ofsted inspection should be conducted at a school where a pupil was reported to have identified as a cat, a senior minister has said.
A teacher is said to have been recorded telling another classmate at Rye College secondary school in East Sussex that she was “despicable” for refusing to accept the pupil identified as an animal.
The school has issued a statement insisting “no children at Rye College identify as a cat or any other animal” following widespread reports of the incident.
Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch has written to Ofsted urging them to “carefully consider” the inspection, which she has requested over “safeguarding” concerns at the school.
A teaching union has accused Ms Badenoch of “weighing in unnecessarily” and “grandstanding”.
But the former Conservative leadership candidate said in her letter to the schools watchdog that the “widely circulated recording of a teacher acting inappropriately regarding her pupils’ beliefs about sex, gender and a fellow pupil who claimed to identify as a cat”, in her view, “raises issues about safeguarding at the school”.
Ms Badenoch also said the teacher’s behaviour was not consistent with school rules outlined by the Equality Act.
She also flouted the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework requirements to “promote respect for the different protected characteristics, as defined in law”.
“By apparently teaching contested political beliefs as fact, including that there are ‘lots of genders’ or that ‘gender is not linked to the parts that you were born with’ – beliefs which are both politically controversial and have no scientific basis – it appears to me that the teacher was in breach of the political impartiality requirements set out in Articles 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996”, Ms Badenoch wrote in her letter.
The minister concluded that the inspection was important for “both this school and the integrity of the system more broadly.”
Ofsted has said it is considering Ms Badenoch’s letter.
Earlier this week, it was announced Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has started an investigation as MPs also expressed concerns in Parliament.
The school met with Department of Education officials to share a “comprehensive update” on events that happened before, during and after the recording.
It has agreed to “fully support and engage” should an inspection take place.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of teaching union the Association of School and College Leaders, called for a “sense of proportion” over the incident.
“This involves an incident at one school in which the trust has already met with the Department for Education to share an update on the events that took place, and the school has said that no pupils identify as a cat or any other animal.
“Now we have politicians, including the Minister for Women and Equalities, weighing in over this matter in a manner that is unnecessary, unhelpful and smacks of grandstanding.”
Mr Barton urged the government to publish long-awaited guidance on issues affecting trans pupils – warning it is of the “utmost importance” the advice is “genuinely helpful” to schools and pupils and not “intolerant and burdensome”.
But Ms Badenoch said in her letter: “It should not be necessary, however, to wait for this guidance in order to tackle gross breaches of existing legislation.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to release new guidance on gender issues after a report from a centre-right think tank concluded some schools are failing to inform parents when a child questions their identity.
However Mr Sunak himself faced criticism after video footage emerged apparently showing him mocking Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey ‘convincing everybody women have penises’.
In April, it was revealed trans pupils could be denied admission to single-sex schools under guidance drawn up by ministers including Ms Badenoch and Ms Keegan.