At Sex Matters, we often hear from parents concerned about what their child is being told at school about gender identity. They may hear about lessons in which sex is described as fluid, changeable or a spectrum, or in which gender stereotypes are presented as defining whether someone is male or female. Emails from teachers may have pronouns in the signature; classrooms display posters of identity flags or the Genderbread Person; and the school may mark occasions such as Transgender Day of Remembrance or invite speakers from groups such as Gendered Intelligence.
Toilet blocks are being converted to “gender-neutral”, that is, mixed-sex, and some schools have adopted policies saying that pupils can choose to use opposite-sex facilities if that is how they identify. Most worryingly of all, some schools not only permit “social transition” – accepting the fiction that a gender-distressed child has changed sex – but do so without letting parents know.
Guidance for schools
Ultimately, it is for the Department for Education to issue clear guidance for schools on how to address the question of how to accommodate children with gender issues. We have called on them to issue guidance that tells schools clearly that in order to respect all pupils’ rights and to undertake robust safeguarding, they must not forget that every child remains the sex that they were born. They cannot pretend that a child has changed sex or allow them to use opposite-sex facilities.
But while the DfE delays in producing new transgender guidance, parents may feel they have little option but to engage with schools themselves.
Our schools guidance was written partly for teachers, school leadership teams and governors, but also for parents and young people wanting to understand their rights: it includes links to all the relevant legislation for England. It is also being used by local authorities in developing their policies.
As well as reading it yourself can also use our simple online tool to send it to your child’s school, and see if you can talk to the head teacher about it.
We also now have guidance for schools in Wales, which references all the relevant legislation from the Welsh Government. (It is in English; we have a draft version in Welsh, referencing all the Welsh-language legislation, but need a native speaker to edit it: please get in touch if you can help.) We are working on similar guidance for Scotland.
School Check for parents
Now, to make it even easier for parents to check where their child’s school stands, we have written a step-by-step guide to what to look out for in school policies, facilities, training and materials, with sample text to use if you want to write a complaint: School Check. Please use it, share it, and take action.