Transgender children will be “forcibly outed” under the government’s draft guidance on gender identity in schools, according to a coalition of charities.
A joint statement by a group of organisations including Mermaids, Stonewall, and Amnesty International UK, said the guidance “seeks to deny the existence of transgender pupils, discouraging them from coming out and being their authentic selves, and could lead to young people being forcibly outed to parents and teachers”.
The long-awaited draft guidance was issued in December, and offered proposals for schools and colleges in England on how best to support pupils who are questioning their gender.
It said “parents should not be excluded” from decisions taken by a school or college relating to requests for a child to “socially transition”, or in other words, a child who wishes to change their name, pronoun or their clothing.
‘A risk of significant harm’
Exceptions are allowed in “rare” circumstances “where involving parents would constitute a significant risk of harm to the child”.
It also said teachers and staff should “not be required” to adopt the child’s chosen pronoun, and should not have to accept all requests for social transition.
But the charities have said the proposals will “erase decades of progress in making schools places that value difference and reject discrimination”.
They want ministers to withdraw the guidance and “rethink” their approach, and some of the signatories have published their own guide for those responding to the consultation, advising “schools and colleges should only engage with parents with the explicit consent of the child or young person in question”.
‘Lots of individual interpretation’
When the Department for Education guidance was published before Christmas, Sky News heard from schools and parents with experience of children questioning their gender at school.
Kevin Sexton, executive headteacher at Chesterfield school in Liverpool, said the draft guidance offers a “pragmatic pathway” advising schools, though still left “lots of areas” for individual interpretation.
But one parent who we called Carrie, to protect her identity, spoke of her “scary” experience as the school her child attended changed her child’s name and pronouns without consulting her.
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In response to today’s statement, the department told Sky News: “All schools are expected to follow official guidance over advice from special interest campaign groups. Once the official guidance is final, we expect that schools follow it.
“This guidance will support schools in making decisions which are in the best interests of their pupils.
“Our draft guidance reflects the law, which schools have a duty to follow. It takes a parent-first approach and prioritises children’s safety and wellbeing, whilst recognising that treating children as though they are of the opposite sex can have significant psychological effects on a child.”
The guidance is currently open to public consultation until 12 March.