Teaching union calls for ‘compassionate’ guidelines on trans kids in schools

trans kids walking to school

A teaching union has called for guidelines on trans children in schools to be “compassionate”, amid leaks suggesting teachers will be forced to out pupils to their parents.

Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government is currently drawing up guidance on trans pupils in schools, which is expected to be published this summer and cover both state and independent schools. 

Education secretary Gillian Keegan and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch are the pair reportedly working on the wide-ranging document. 

On 16 April, The Sunday Times reported that under the guidance teachers will be forced to out trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming pupils to their parents without their consent. 

“Triggers” for schools to inform on students include a child using a different name at school, changing their pronouns or “a boy wearing a skirt”. 

Leaks also suggest the guidance will see trans pupils unable to use school changing rooms which align with their gender and trans girls will be banned from taking part in contact and competitive school sports on girls’ teams. 

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The proposed guidance does state there will be exceptions for children believed to be at risk of “significant harm”. However, it is unclear how schools would ascertain if children from homes without safeguarding risks are fully without risk of transphobic harm.  

Compassion is needed in the guidance, union leader says

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the association of school and college leaders, said any guidance brought forth must be underpinned by “fairness, respect and safety” which treats trans pupils with “dignity”.   

In a statement given to PinkNews, McCulloch said: “We have been calling on the government to provide guidance for schools about how best to support transgender pupils and pupils questioning their gender identity for many years. 

“It is extremely unhelpful that the government has taken so long to do this, leaving schools to be caught in the crossfire of this polarising issue.

“This guidance must be underpinned by a commitment to fairness, respect and safety for all pupils. It is crucial that there is full consultation with school and college leaders and teachers in advance of publication to ensure the guidance is deliverable. 

“A compassionate and practical set of guidelines to help schools navigate this sensitive territory, where every pupil is treated with dignity, is what is required.”

Teachers and LGBTQ+ groups were quick to slam the government’s proposed guidance, both as dangerous for vulnerable children and as a means of further stoking the “culture war” surrounding the trans community. 

Matt Adams, a head of department at a West London state school, told PinkNews teachers do not have “all the information about every child’s home environment”,  so by outing them “we could be putting them at risk of harm”. 

A second teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, echoed Adams’ view

Proposed guidance does not ‘protect’ LGBTQ+ youth

She told PinkNews: “There are so many vulnerable children in education who need so much support, so much help, and this just isn’t something that is frankly needed in the education system, at all.” 

“As a teacher, my number one priority is safeguarding and I can’t really understand how this has anything to do with safeguarding students. 

“It seems to just be safeguarding Tory interests,” the teacher added. 

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall told PinkNews that 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”. 

“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,” a spokesperson for the organisation said. 

“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.”

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