Government to permit children to change names and pronouns in schools, leaks suggest

The UK government’s long-promised, and extremely controversial, trans guidance for schools could formally allow pupils to change their names and pronouns.

New leaks suggest that the guidance will take a “a presumption against” trans youth changing genders at school, but would allow them to use new names or pronouns, and to change the uniform they wear. 

This would mark a significant change from previously leaked plans, which indicated that pupils could be banned from socially transitioning altogether. 

A government source told The Guardian that the guidance is still being worked on and could change before publication, which, according to education secretary Gillian Keegan, will be before Christmas

The guidance has been promised since 2018 and numerous leaks over the years have purported controversial and conflicting policies, such as the ban on social transitioning, forcing teachers to out pupils, barring trans children from single-sex schools and spaces, and allowing staff to misgender pupils. 

Much like legislation relating to conversion therapy, the government has delayed the trans guidance several times, with dates – such as summer 2023 – coming and going without any indication of when the document will actually be shown to schools. 

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Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the newspaper that the union had been asking for guidance from the government for the past five years.

“We raise this matter on a weekly basis. Nothing has emerged other than press reports from time to time about what the government may or may not do,” he said. 

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He noted that the “presumption” against social transitioning potentially poses issues for schools.

“We are extremely concerned that following this advice may leave schools and colleges open to legal challenge under the Equality Act. We would urge the government to ensure that the guidance does not create more problems than it solves.” 

‘Compassionate’ guidance is needed, union says

The leaks have often left pupils, parents, teachers and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups deeply concerned. 

When news of school staff potentially being forced to out trans pupils to their parents broke, one teacher revealed their concern to PinkNews. 

“There are so many vulnerable children in education who need so much support, so much help, and this isn’t something that is needed in the education system, at all,” they said. 

“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.”

Teaching unions have also opposed the potential policies.

In April, Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at the ASCL, told PinkNews: “We have been calling on the government, for many years, to provide guidance for schools about how best to support transgender pupils and [those] questioning their gender identity,” she said.

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“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.”

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