AN OXFORD school has defended the suspension of a teacher who called a transgender pupil a 'girl'.

Joshua Sutcliffe fears his job is in jeopardy after praising pupils by saying 'well done girls' – despite one of the group identifying as male.

The Cherwell School teacher said he was officially suspended yesterday for an indefinite period, after the academy said his 'misgendering' flouted its equality policy.

Oxford resident Mr Sutcliffe said he was 'shocked and saddened' by the secondary school's actions, insisting his mistake was a mere slip of the tongue for which he had immediately apologised.

But the pupil's parent lodged a complaint suggesting the slip-up, which happened this term, was discriminatory.

Chris Price, headteacher of the Summertown school, said: "This school takes issues of equality and discrimination seriously, whether they be issues to do with religious belief or gender identity.

"It has a range of governor-approved policies to ensure the school acts appropriately and lawfully."

He said it would be 'inappropriate' to comment further on confidential disciplinary matters.

And Mr Price, who did not want the name of his school to be identified, said he did not want to risk the education of one of his pupils through the issue.

Devout Christian Mr Sutcliffe, 27, joined the school in 2015 and is also a pastor at Christ Revelation Church in Oxford's New Road.

He admitted he disagreed with the idea that gender can be fluid, but labelled his suspension 'political correctness gone mad'.

The teacher fears he sacrificed his career by speaking out, but wanted to spark a wider debate about faith and equality in schools.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, he said: "Teaching is my passion, I love to teach. It was a big decision [to speak publicly] but I value my faith above the job."

Since the complaint was made earlier this month, Mr Sutcliffe claims he was made to do work in the staffroom rather than teach.

He said this brought 'public shame' as he struggled to explain to colleagues why he was not in the classroom.

Though Mr Sutcliffe said he was reluctant to refer to the pupil using male pronouns, stating it 'conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs', he said he did use the pupil's preferred male name.

He added: "I recognise my responsibility as a teacher and Christian to treat each of my pupils with respect and dignity.

"Although I did not intentionally refer to the pupil as a 'girl', I do not believe it is unreasonable to call someone a girl if they were born a girl."

Mr Sutcliffe, who qualified as a teacher in 2013, previously worked at a West Oxfordshire school.

He said beliefs such as his were being increasingly 'punished', adding: "The aggressive way in which transgender ideology is being imposed is undermining my freedom of belief and conscience."

Mr Sutcliffe appeared on national television and radio shows yesterday and split opinion, with some commentators slating the school but others amounting his views to discrimination.

A parent, whose son goes to Cherwell, praised the school for being consistently supportive of LGBTQ pupils.

The North Oxford resident, who asked not to be named, said: "I think it's fantastic but I can also understand that it might go against people's beliefs.

"Society is in flux and the rules are not clear. We need to ask for kindness and a bit of leeway, as things are changing so much.

"I think we need to be tolerant both ways. We shouldn't label someone and ruin their career.

"It's about sitting down, having a debate and not feeling like you are going to be judged."

The Cherwell School is a 'school champion' for LGBTQ support charity Stonewall – a stamp awarded to schools committed to promoting equality and tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

In 2015 it was awarded a Big Lottery Fund grant worth almost £10,000, specifically to address issues linked to LGBTQ discrimination and provide workshops to promote diversity.

According to its 2016-17 equality policy, six pupils at the school identified as transgender.

The policy notes Cherwell has a 'thriving gender alliance group', and set an objective to ' instil greater understanding, awareness and empathy of our differences'.

Mr Sutcliffe was due to have a meeting with the school on Wednesday to discuss action, but he said this has been postponed.

Jayne Ozanne, a senior member of the Church of England who is openly gay, said Mr Sutcliffe’s views ‘appear to show he is transphobic in the extreme’.

The Littlemore resident said: “He is reported [elsewhere] as saying the school was ‘trying to force (him) to adhere to its liberal/Leftish agenda’. They are not.

"They are putting the needs and rights of the child first.

“It seems to me he should urgently undergo some training to understand the harm his transphobic views inflict on children at a critical time in their lives.”