Schools to be forced to ‘out’ trans and non-binary children to parents under ‘dangerous’ new Tory guidance

Rishi Sunak

New guidance from the UK’s Conservative government will see teachers forced to ‘out’ trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming pupils to their parents, and ban trans children from using changing and shower facilities that align with gender identity.

Although there is expected to be an exception for children believed to be at risk of “significant harm” at home, young people exploring their gender will be informed on to parents against their will, which could have devastating consequences – whether or not the school has marked these children at risk of harm in their family setting.

According to a report in The Sunday Times on Sunday (16 April), the government will also ban trans girls from taking part in contact and competitive school sports on girls’ teams. However, sources briefed on the discussions say the rules on non-contact sports will be “more relaxed”. 

The guidance, which is currently being drawn up by the Department for Education, will apply to all state and independent schools in England. 

The Sunday Times reports that the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, is “concerned about parental consent” and the guidance will provide detailed rules about when schools “must inform parents about their children questioning their gender”.

A number of “triggers” for schools being compelled to inform parents are mentioned, including a child changing their name or changes to their uniform, including “a boy wearing a skirt”.

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The Sunday Times quotes a source as saying that “even wearing a skirt to school, using a different name, all of those things, are consequential; they are not a neutral thing to do”.

The source continues: “As someone responsible for safeguarding, you have a duty to tell the parents.”

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Conservative and Labour Party leaders echo anti-trans rhetoric

This comes after the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was heavily criticised for “throwing trans people under the bus” in an interview with the Sunday Times on 1 April, where he appeared to show support for schools ‘outing’ trans and non-binary children to their parents.

Collage of Sunak and Starmer
Keir Starmer has been echoing Rishi Sunak’s rhetoric on trans rights reform. (Gettty)

He said: “Look, of course I’d want to know. I say that as a parent. I would want to know and I think the vast majority of parents would want to know.”

It is unclear which party LGBTQ+ people and allies in the UK can now vote for, due to both the Tories and Labour appearing to sing from the same regressive hymn sheet when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights – and particularly the rights of trans people. 

A London-based secondary school teacher spoke to PinkNews about the new Department of Education guidance, calling it “dangerous”.

Matt Adams, a head of department at a West London state school, said: “Teachers and schools do not have all the information about every child’s home environment, and instead of supporting a pupil to be themselves in school, we could be putting them at risk of harm.

“It’s dangerous behaviour. It’s not solving a problem – it’s creating a problem.”

Europe’s leading LGBTQ+ rights organisation, Stonewall, told PinkNews that the government should avoid “stoking a politically motivated culture war”.

A Stonewall spokesperson said: “LGBTQ+ children and young people deserve the same opportunity to thrive as any other child, and it is key that schools are respectful and supportive. 

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“We understand that the government seeks to create guidance for schools to have ‘across-the-board’ solutions, but this must not be fuelled by yet another cynical attempt to stoke a politically motivated ‘culture war’, at the expense of trans people’s safety and dignity.

“Any moves to shut trans people out of common spaces represent an appalling rollback on trans people’s well-established rights. We know that young people face unprecedentedly rising abuse against their sexual orientation and gender identity while trans people across the country are scared and targeted with rapidly rising hate. 

“We need to prioritise creating LGBTQ+ inclusive environments that will protect and safeguard LGBTQ+ pupils, which this proposed solution doesn’t seem to be doing.”

A person holds a sign reading "kids should feel safe to be who they are" in the colour of the trans pride flag
The new guidance will ban trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming pupils from using the changing and shower facilities that align with their gender identity. (Getty)

Mosaic Trust slams guidance as ‘badly thought out’

Lukasz Konieczka, executive director of the Mosaic LGBTQ+ Young Persons Trust, told PinkNews that there is “usually a reason” why a child hasn’t told their parents about their gender identity.

Konieczka said: “Such guidance would put a lot of trans and non-binary students at risk. There is usually a reason why a child doesn’t tell their parents about them being trans or non-binary.

“Family rejection is a huge risk, leading to the young person entering already stretched care system and, in the worst case scenario, so-called honour-based violence.

“Such badly thought out guidelines will confuse schools and put young people at risk.

“When it comes to showers and changing facilities, those should offer privacy to all involved instead of archaic binary sex divisions from the Victorian era,” Konieczka continued. “It seems that this is another of the replacement topics that seek sensationalism while there is no evidence that trans or non-binary people in either of the spaces cause any risk at all.

“All this comes while prosecution of real violence against girls and women committed by cis men is still appallingly low.”

The Department for Education does not address safeguarding concerns

The Department for Education told PinkNews that the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, is “deeply concerned by reports of inappropriate relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) lessons”.

“That’s why she has brought forward an urgent review that will look at how RSHE should be taught, protecting children and reassuring parents, written to schools to remind them of their duty to show parents materials used in lessons, and is working with the minister for women and equalities to publish guidance for schools for the summer term on how to respond to children who are questioning their gender identity.

“The RSHE review will give us the opportunity to consider the evidence and provide clarity on what is appropriate to be taught in schools, alongside ensuring that schools know they must be transparent with parents.”

The Department for Education provided no information on how trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming children could be impacted – or safeguarded – in the event that schools are directed to inform their parents about their gender identity in the interest of “transparency”, despite being specifically asked about this issue.

The Tories appear to be taking cues from the wave of right-wing anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment sweeping the US, where trans young people are repeatedly targeted by harmful and oppressive legislative proposals.

This month, Kansas became the 20th US state to pass restrictions on trans student-athletes taking part in sports, amid concerns that this could result in “genital inspections” for young people hoping to compete in sporting events.

The new government guidance is expected to be published in mere weeks’ time.

This report was updated on 16 April to include statements from the Department for Education and the Mosaic Trust.

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