Use School Check to find out if a school has been captured by gender-identity ideology
There are a lot of suggestions here, but just do as much as you have time for. Some parts may be easier for you than others – but even if you have only looked in a few places, it’s still worth approaching the school.
You might like to start with our summary, and Helen Joyce’s article for the Mail Online about how her son’s school dealt with her complaint.
All the bullet points we list here are danger signs.
Check the school’s website for its Equality Policy (which may be called something slightly different, such as “Equality and Inclusion” or “Equalities”). If it’s a maintained school there should definitely be one, since complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty is a statutory requirement; a private school will usually have something similar.
What to watch out for in an equality policy
- Does it list “gender” or “gender identity” as protected characteristics in the Equality Act, instead of “sex” and “gender reassignment” with the correct definitions?
- Does it talk about “gender identity” or “trans identities” or “trans children”?
- Does it mix up sex (binary, immutable, male and female, boy and girl) and gender identity (a personal declaration unmoored from physical reality, which shouldn’t appear at all)?
- Does it suggest that “intersex” is an identity?
- Does it claim that pupils are boys or girls according to how they identify?
- Does it mention non-binary identities?
See if you can find these on the school website.
What to watch out for in equality objectives
- Are they skewed towards issues relating to gender identity?
- Do they largely ignore attainment gaps between well-defined groups that are relevant to the school’s intake – such girls and boys; children eligible for the pupil premium and others; children with special educational needs and others?
Every maintained school should have such a policy easily accessible on its website, and private schools are likely to have something similar.
What to watch out for in an anti-bullying policy
- Does it refer to “transphobic bullying”?
- Does it fail to give definitions or examples of “transphobic bullying”?
- Would any behaviours listed already be covered by protections afforded by protections of sex or sexual orientation?
- Are there any sanctions stated?
- Does it fail to give due weight to the seriousness of homophobic and sexist bullying? Are these accurately described, or are they reformulated by claiming they relate to self-declared gender identity?
Look on the school’s website for a policy called something like this – it is not a statutory requirement, but increasingly many schools have such a policy.
What to watch out for in a trans-inclusion policy
- Does it say that pupils can ask for their sex (or gender, or gender identity) to be updated on school records – either on demand, or with parents’ permission?
- Does it say that pupils may use single-sex spaces, such as toilets, changing-rooms and dormitories, that match their gender identity?
- Does it suggest that there are any circumstances in which pupils may take part in sporting activities for the opposite sex?
- Does it say that everyone is expected to refer to other pupils (and perhaps teachers) by their “preferred pronouns”?
- Does it suggest that pupils may use facilities reserved for the opposite sex?
- Does it fail to suggest alternative provision for gender-distressed pupils, such as extra unisex provision?
- Does it fail to acknowledge anywhere that many people hold religious or gender-critical beliefs that mean they don’t think gender identity overrides sex, and that such beliefs are lawful?
- Does it suggest that although these beliefs are lawful, their expression may constitute harassment, discrimination or bullying, and may lead to disciplinary measures?
Equality impact assessment
If there is a “trans inclusion” policy, then an EIA should have been carried out. It may be included at the end of the policy or published separately.
It should explain how the policy impacts on people with various protected characteristics, and if that impact is negative whether action needs to be taken.
If any of the answers above for the trans inclusion policy suggest that gender-confused children’s gender identity is being given precedence over sex, look to see what the EIA says is the impact on the relevant group (probably girls, and people with “sex-realist” beliefs, whether religious or secular). Does it acknowledge an impact, and if so what does it propose to do?
If you cannot find one of these policies
If you can’t find one of these other than the trans-inclusion policy, ask the principal’s office to direct you to it.
If there is no trans-inclusion policy
If there is no trans-inclusion policy, ask who you can email with queries about issues of sex and gender, and send them something like this:
I have some questions regarding how the school responds to children disclosing a trans identity. I understand the school has no formal written policy, but I am hoping you can let me know the answers to these questions all the same:
- If a child discloses a trans identity, does the school notify parents as a matter of course?
- Does the school retain the child’s birth sex in the pupil’s records, or overwrite it with the child’s declared gender identity?
- Are trans-identified children told they may continue to use single-sex spaces such as toilets for their (birth) sex and participate in single-sex sports for their sex, or are they invited to use facilities and participate in sports on the basis of their gender identity?
- Does the school expect other pupils and teachers to use trans-identified children’s preferred pronouns? If so, what action would it take if a pupil continued to use the pronouns for the child’s (birth) sex?
- Is there single-sex provision for toilets and changing rooms in addition to any mixed-sex (or “gender neutral” or “unisex”) facilities?
- If not, are the mixed-sex toilets completely enclosed, including sinks, and opening onto a well-trafficked area? Or are the sinks outside the cubicles, or do the cubicles open onto a side corridor behind a door and poorly overlooked?
Are you able to tell from published policies what the school’s policies are regarding the elements of social transition? If not, ask the school to tell you what its policy is regarding any steps you cannot answer.
Here is a breakdown of the steps, with an analysis of which can and cannot lawfully be accommodated in a school environment. If the school takes any steps that are not lawful, these can be complained about.
Steps involved in “social transition”
|Steps involved in “social transition”||Is it lawful?||Are schools required to do it?||What else should schools consider?|
|Recording a child on the register as the opposite sex||No. Schools are required, by law, to record sex in pupil records.|||||
|Requiring that teachers and other pupils act as if a child has changed sex||No. Other people have rights.|
It is not consistent with safeguarding.
|Admitting a child to a single-sex school of the opposite sex, on the basis of gender identity||For maintained schools this would contravene the Admissions Code.||No. The Equality Act does not require this.||Admitting a child as if they are the opposite sex would infringe other children’s rights.|
|Fulfilling a child’s request to change the name they are known by for day-to-day purposes||Yes. Schools may record “known by” names in addition to the child’s actual name.||No. There is no statutory requirement to do this.||Parents have a right to information a school holds on their child (except where disclosure might cause serious harm to the pupil’s health).|
|Allowing a child to use opposite-sex facilities||No. Schools are required to provide separate-sex facilities.||No.|||
|Allowing a child to play in opposite-sex sports||Not explicitly unlawful. But could discriminate against other pupils, and risk health and safety.||No.||It is not a decision that is sustainable as a child and their cohort grow up.|
|Allowing a child to disregard other sex-based rules (such as uniform)||Not explicitly unlawful. But schools should not have unnecessary sex-based rules.||No.|||
Data and record-keeping
If the school has a “trans inclusion policy”, it may answer these questions. If not, ask directly:
If a child approaches the school and asserts a trans identity, does the school
- change the child’s sex in school records without notifying parents?
- ask parents for permission to change the child’s sex in its records, and if given it make the change?
If the school seems very enthusiastic about trans issues, consider asking:
- What share of pupils have informed the school that they have a trans identity?
- What is the sex breakdown of these pupils (that is, the sex recorded at their birth)?
External partners and materials for RSE/PSHE
Check the school’s RSE policy, which should set out details of provision and curriculum including information about external resources.
Ask if the school uses any outside partners or materials provided by external organisations for RSE/PSHE lessons on issues of sex and trans identities. If so, ask which ones, and ask to see the materials. The Department for Education has said schools should facilitate such requests, but some cite commercial confidentiality and refuse. If you cannot see the materials, see what you can find out about the organisation online.
Find out whether lesson plans, printed materials or books make suggestions like these:
- Whether someone is a boy or girl is nothing to do with their body.
- Medical staff “assign” babies a sex, and sometimes get it wrong.
- Sex isn’t binary, it’s a spectrum.
- It’s possible to be neither male nor female, or neither a boy nor a girl.
- Everyone has an innate gender identity.
- You know what your gender identity is because you can just tell, but also it’s about whether you like “girl things” or “boy things”.
- Young children whose gender identities don’t match their bodies should socially transition.
- If you don’t like your secondary sex characteristics it’s reasonable to conceal them with, for example, a breast binder.
- Older children whose gender identities don’t match their bodies can use puberty-blockers, then cross-sex hormones and then surgery to “medically transition”.
- Trans women are women; trans men are men.
If the school presents a reading list or uses books in class, look to see what messages these books convey about sex and gender identity. What you’re looking for is anything that conveys these messages, even subtly.
There are far too many books like this to list; however, here are a few that give a flavour of the content:
- Introducing Teddy, about a teddy bear who realises “in my heart I’ve always been a girl”. He shows this by taking off his bow tie and using it as a hair bow.
- I am Jazz, a children’s book about reality-TV star Jazz Jennings, a boy who socially transitioned in early childhood and underwent genital surgery while still a teenager. Jazz’s parents decided their child was a girl because he liked girls’ clothes and boys.
- Beyond the Gender Binary, a memoir by a drag queen who identifies as non-binary.
Transgender Trend has an excellent article about and comprehensive list of trans picture books for little children.
Ask if staff have received any training on either LGBT issues or trans issues. If so, ask who provided that training, and if you can see the materials or a summary of them.
- Does the training signpost to partisan external organisations such as Mermaids, Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence or the Proud Trust?
- Ask if the school makes use of an Education Services Provider to help formulate its policies. Many schools lean on model policies heavily influenced by organisations that promote prioritising gender identity over biological sex.
- Does the school acknowledge that it retains full responsibility for safeguarding even where advice has been outsourced?
Does what you learn suggest that staff are being told any of these inaccurate claims?
- Sex is something that can be changed, or a spectrum, or impossible to discern without a medical test.
- Gender identity, not sex, is what matters in determining whether someone is a boy or girl.
- It is possible to be neither male nor female/ neither a boy nor a girl/ non-binary/ gender-fluid
- Sexual orientation relates to gender identity, not sex – that is, a gay man is someone who identifies as a man and is sexually attracted only to people who identify as men (and so on).
- Everyone must affirm trans identities, that is, accept that boys who say they are girls really are girls, and vice versa.
- Not affirming trans identities is bigoted, transphobic or perhaps even illegal.
- Using pronouns relating to a trans-identified person’s sex is bullying/ harassment/ discrimination, and should be a disciplinary matter.
- “Gender-neutral” toilets – that is, mixed-sex – are the most inclusive arrangement.
- Children should be allowed to use the facilities for the sex they identify as.
- The law says children must be allowed to use the facilities for the sex they identify as.
Also ask if staff have received any training on equality, diversity and inclusion relating to other protected characteristics, in particular religion/belief and disability. Again, ask who provided that training, and ask if you can see the materials or a summary of them.
What to look for in training materials
- Does the training recognise that sex and not gender or gender identity is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act?
- Does that training acknowledge that sex-realist beliefs, whether religious or secular, are protected beliefs under the Equality Act?
- If so, does it acknowledge that it is lawful not only to hold, but to express, such beliefs?
- Is there any mention of the impact of trans-inclusionary policies on people with disabilities? For example those with extra toileting needs or cognitive differences that make it harder for them to adhere to speech codes such as “preferred pronouns”?
Is the school proselytising for trans identities?
Among the signs you might find on the premises:
- posters of the Genderbread Man
- displays of flags for various gender identities
- staff lanyards or pin badges suggesting LGBT “allyship”
- toilets with kooky “all gender” signs
- pronouns in signatures of emails from staff
- pronoun badges in use
- an LGBT club that seems to conflate sexuality and gender identity
- commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance
- LGBT History Month initiatives; assemblies celebrating trans and non-binary identities
- reference beyond LGBT to Q and +
- Drag Queen Story Time sessions in school.
Sample text to use in responses
If protected characteristics of sex and/or gender reassignment are mis-stated
I note that the school’s Equality Policy [or some other policy] confuses/conflates/misstates the protected characteristics of sex and gender reassignment. This means it’s at risk of acting unlawfully by failing to protect children on the basis of characteristics they hold.
The correct definitions are:
Sex: this means male/female – the immutable biological categorisation, as written on infants’ birth certificates. Boys are male; girls are female.
Gender reassignment: A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if they are proposing to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) to reassign their sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex (Equality Act 2010, Section 7 (1)).
The Equality Act does not set up a “hierarchy” of protected characteristics. Policies should not suggest that gender reassignment is more important than other protected characteristics, or that trans-identified children’s wishes are more important than other children’s rights. Prejudice, bullying, discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex, race, disability, orientation and religion or belief are all serious issues, and affect large numbers of people in all walks of life, including school-children. These issues should be given due weight in all school policies, rather than marginalised and perhaps even worsened by policies that promote gender-identity ideology.
If there’s any mention of children “identifying as” male/female
What makes children girls or boys (and adults men or women) is their sex, which is fixed at conception and either male or female. Everyone is one or the other, and no one is in between. This scientific fact is acknowledged in many UK laws.
All children are either male or female, and are protected from discrimination or harassment because of that sex. Some may also have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, but this does not change their sex. A child who identifies as trans, or a member of the opposite sex, or non-binary or another identity, remains a member of their actual sex.
There is provision in UK law for adults to change their legally recorded sex for some purposes, but this is not relevant to schools.
Identifying as trans, non-binary, gender-fluid or another neo-gender identity does not change a person’s sex or mean that they have no sex or are in between the two sexes.
If there is any mention of “intersex” as an identity, or in any policy
“Intersex” is an outdated umbrella term for a large number of rare medical conditions. It is not an identity, and has no place in any school policy. If someone has one of these conditions, this is private medical information. The family will inform the school if the condition means the child needs any special accommodations.
If any policy, lesson, recommended book or poster states or implies that gender theory is fact
The theory that some or all people have innate “gender identities” that may or may not match their sex is contested and lacks a scientific basis. It does not form any part of UK law. Some people may identify as “trans” on the ground that their “gender identity” doesn’t match their sex, but this does not change their sex.
Schools should not be teaching any such controversial theory, or allowing it to shape their policies. All schools are prohibited, by statute, from promoting partisan political views. Recent government guidance on RSE said that schools “should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material.”
If the phrase “trans children” is used anywhere, or it is suggested that children can have gender identities different from their sex
It is extremely important not to suggest that children can be trans. A significant body of research shows that most children who identify out of their sex cease to do so before adulthood. It is better to use the terminology of Dr Hilary Cass, the eminent paediatrician who is reviewing child gender medicine in the NHS. She talks of “gender-confused” and “gender-distressed” children, which suggest potentially transitory issues, not “trans children”, which suggests a special type of children with an unusual personal characteristic.
If there are any circumstances in which the school is willing to change the sex recorded for a pupil, whether or not it informs parents
The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 require all schools to keep admission and attendance registers, with specified particulars including sex. This is a statutory duty, and these records must be transferred in a standard format when pupils move school. Changing a pupil’s sex in school records is therefore unlawful.
If any policies or practices suggest keeping secrets, or concealing trans identification from parents
Two central tenets of safeguarding are that adults should never promise to keep secrets for children, and all those with responsibility for a child should work together. No child should be promised that a trans identity will be kept secret from parents.
Whether and to whom a trans identification should be disclosed should be decided according to standard safeguarding procedures. Disclosures should be made on the basis of the risk to the child, on the same basis as with all other children. Treating trans-identified children as exceptions to standard safeguarding procedures and thresholds is gender-reassignment discrimination.
Parents should routinely be informed about anything that raises a safeguarding concern, unless there is good reason to fear that disclosure puts the child at risk.
The DfE tells schools: “You should work together with parents on any decisions regarding your school’s treatment of their child, in line with the school’s safeguarding policy and the statutory guidance on working together to safeguard children.”
Declaring a trans identity should normally be considered a safeguarding disclosure, for these reasons:
- Children presenting to NHS gender services are disproportionately likely to have mental-health issues.
- If a child wants to change important aspects of their self-conceived identity during school hours, either the family knows or the child will be living two separate lives, one of them kept secret from parents. This risks driving a wedge between parents and children.
- Clinical expertise suggests that trans identification is sometimes related to mental-health issues, trauma, bullying or other safeguarding risks. Everyone with responsibility for keeping a child safe should therefore know about it.
- Trans identification is part of a belief system, namely that a person’s declaration of their identity overwrites their biological sex. Many, perhaps most, parents do not hold this belief. It is not a school’s right or responsibility to proselytise for a contested belief system.
- Actions taken by some trans-identified children, such as breast-binding and talking to adults in chatrooms online, pose safeguarding risks.
If the school says pupils may use single-sex facilities for the gender they identify as
Schools have a statutory duty to provide single-sex facilities above certain ages (eight for toilets; 11 for showers and changing-rooms). Permitting a child of one sex to use facilities for the other sex means those facilities become mixed-sex, and is therefore a breach of school regulations.
Allowing a child of one sex to use single-sex facilities intended for the other sex is a serious safeguarding risk. It should never be permitted. The right way to accommodate a child suffering gender-related distress is to consider reasonable accommodations, such as extra single-user unisex facilities.
All schools are expected to teach children about consent and their right to set boundaries. No child should be given the impression that they can overstep other children’s boundaries by using opposite-sex facilities, and no child should feel unable to say they feel uncomfortable with their boundaries being overstepped in this manner.
If the school has mixed-sex multi-user toilets, whether or not it also has single-sex facilities
Gender-neutral toilets (for use by both sexes) can be a useful part of school facilities, when properly arranged. But they should be in addition to and not as a replacement for single-sex toilets. School regulations state that unisex, single-user toilets must be in individual enclosed rooms. It is bad practice to have washbasins outside this room rather than inside, since it is less private and safe. It is also bad practice to have these toilets open out onto a communal area behind a door, or onto a small corridor that has little traffic, since this is a safety risk.
If there are any circumstances in which boys (male children of any stated identity) are permitted to play single-sex sports on an exceptional basis with girls
Sports are routinely separated once boys’ and girls’ physical development opens a gap between the average size, strength, speed and stamina of the two sexes. Allowing any boy to join sports reserved for girls is likely to constitute indirect sex discrimination, since it disadvantages girls in a way that allowing girls to join in boys’ sports does not. Depending on the sport, it may also be a safeguarding risk. Trans-identified children should be included within sports for their own sex – to do otherwise would be gender-reassignment discrimination.
If there is any criticism, open or implied, of believing in or stating the reality of binary, immutable sex (mandatory “preferred pronouns”, suggesting that gender-critical beliefs are bigoted, or that their expression is bullying or harassment or discrimination
Understanding that sex is binary and immutable, and regarding that fact as important, is known as “gender-critical” belief. Some religious beliefs also require observant people to acknowledge and act upon the binary, immutable nature of sex. These include Orthodox Judaism and some strands of Islam.
Such beliefs may be called “sex-realist”. Whether secular or religious, they fall under the protected characteristic of “religion or belief” in the Equality Act. That means it is lawful to adhere to them, and lawful to express them except when doing so unacceptably infringes upon other people’s rights.
Everyone in the UK also enjoys Article 10 rights to free speech under the Human Rights Act. This (qualified) right makes it unlikely that blanket restrictions on ordinary expressions of perception, such as of people’s sex, are lawful.
A blanket policy that requires all pupils to refer to trans-identified children according to the sex they identify as, not the sex they actually are, is also likely to be unlawful as belief discrimination. It may also constitute discrimination on grounds of disability, since people with certain conditions, such as autistic-spectrum disorders, are likely to find it harder than others to comply.
The same goes for any suggestion that lawful speech in itself constitutes bullying, harassment or discrimination.
Being able to acknowledge and openly refer to the sex of all children and adults is essential for child safeguarding. Sex is always a relevant variable when assessing risk. Most sexual assaults and harassment in schools are carried out by men and boys against women and girls. Any infringement on education professionals’ ability to state the sex of all children when necessary, for example when assessing risk, both puts children at risk by hampering safeguarding and infringes on professionals’ Article 10 rights (education professionals have statutory safeguarding duties).
It is not “transphobic” or “bullying” to acknowledge the material, binary nature of sex, or to refer to a person when appropriate as a member of their sex. No school policy should suggest that failure to use “preferred pronouns” constitutes transphobia or bullying. Similarly, a school should not treat expression of sex-realist belief or support for single-sex spaces as transphobic or bullying.
Any lessons or materials that suggest feelings or behaviours are what make people boys or girls, or indeed something else or in between, are anti-scientific and also promote sexist and homophobic attitudes.