Where sex matters | Safeguarding and schools

Safeguarding and schools

Replacing “sex” with “gender identity” undermines safeguarding.

“Safeguarding” is the responsiblity of all agencies working with children, young people and their families, or with vulnerable adults to:

Take all reasonable measures to ensure that the risks of harm to their welfare are minimised, and where there are concerns to take appropriate actions to address those concerns.

There are six core principles of safeguarding:

  • Empowerment: Ensuring people are supported and confident in making their own decisions and giving informed consent.
  • Protection: Providing support and representation for those in greatest need – this requires identifying risk.
  • Prevention: Working to stop abuse before it happens by raising awareness, training staff and encouraging individuals to ask for help
  • Proportionality: Proportionality ensures that services take each person into account, respecting each individual and assessing risks.
  • Partnerships: give organisations the opportunity to work together, as well as with the local community.
  • Accountability: Safeguarding is everyone’s business and accountability makes sure that everyone plays their part. Everyone is accountable for their actions as individuals, services and organisations.

A person’s sex can be a risk factor in abuse, particularly sexual abuse; both as a perpetrator or as a person at risk of harm. Put bluntly, statistically female pupils are most at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and males – whether pupils or staff – present a larger risk as perpetrators.

At the most basic level, the risk of becoming pregnant depends on sex not gender identity. Research evidence in the UK on prevalence of child sexual abuse finds higher levels among girls than boys. However boys may face particular challenges to reporting abuse. Perpetrators of sexual abuse and child abuse are predominantly men.

Being able to talk clearly and honestly about the sex, in policies and procedures, and between individuals and agencies is critical to informed consent, to identifying risk and to preventing harm.

Basic rules to reduce risk take sex into account. For example single sex spaces for changing and washing in schools and sports venues, and legislation on overcrowding which states that children over the age of 10 should not have to share a bedroom with members of the opposite sex.

What is the problem?

Many institutions with safeguarding responsibilities are adopting policies that replace “sex” with “gender”, and set rules which require staff and young people to ignore, or make it taboo to talk about a person’s actual sex if it is different from the gender by which they prefer to be referred to. This conflict with safeguarding legislation and principles.

For example some schools are adopting policies which allow children to use opposite sex changing and toilet facilities based on the idea of gender identity. If a child has gender dysphoria or identifies as transgender schools are told by lobby groups to treat this with absolute confidentiality — including not informing parents. This directly contradicts basic information-sharing safeguarding principles.

Staff and parents raising safeguarding concerns are dismissed as transphobic or pressured to use language that erases risk. Safeguarding systems cannot work where people are not able to speak clearly about risks.

Updates

  • Press pause on conversion therapy law

    The Government is consulting on its proposal to introduce a new law banning “conversion therapy”. They are aiming to introduce a Bill to parliament in time to celebrate this as an achievement at their “Safe To Be Me: Global Equality Conference” in June 2022. They are therefore undertaking a...

    14th November 2021

  • Government launches conversion therapy consultation: Sex Matters’ response

    A rushed six-week consultation has been launched, with the claim that this will stop under 18 year olds making irreversible decisions. But will the threat of criminal penalties be used to pressurise parents and therapists who don't take an affirmation approach to gender identity?

    28th October 2021

  • The Sex Matters guide to: Pronouns at work

    Pronouns at work

    You often ask us what you should do do when a workplace asks you to ‘state your pronouns’, in your email signature or during introductions in meetings. We explain the laws surrounding the issue and what to do if this new ritual makes you uncomfortable.

    19th October 2021

  • Truth and reconciliation

    How should the public sector leave the Stonewall Champions Scheme?

    6th June 2021

  • Time to #LeaveStonewall

    This is the letter we have sent to the CEOs of the 850 organisations that are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. Re: Leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme We are writing to call on you to withdraw from the scheme, both for the sake of your own...

    29th May 2021

  • Boys and Girls and the Equality Act cover

    Guidance for Schools

    Sex Matters and Transgender Trend have developed new guidance for schools.

    8th May 2021

  • Toilets – a place where sex matters

    The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is undertaking a technical review on increasing accessibility and provision of toilets for men and women. We submitted a 60 page briefing . The submission is long, because the issue of who can use which toilets has become overly complicated and...

    19th February 2021

Resources

  • Genspect

    An international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people, if they are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support or do not feel free to speak out about their concerns. Represents 17 organisations...

  • Transgender Trend

    Transgender Trend

    An organisation of parents, professionals and academics based in the UK, advocating for evidence-based care of gender dysphoric children and science-based teaching in schools.

  • Safe Schools Alliance UK: putting safeguarding first

    Safe Schools Alliance

    A group of concerned parents, grandparents, teachers, governors, and health professionals who work with schools and educators to ensure that school policies meet the safeguarding needs of all students, taking into account the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010.

Publications