Schools again to write own rules for transgender people “behind parents’ backs”

Schools - Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Schools – Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Schools will continue to set their own policies for transgender students, including whether to tell parents if a child has changed their name, as the government delays new guidance.

Since April, the Department of Education (DfE) has been working on national guidance for principals about transgender people.

However, Whitehall sources told The Telegraph that this will not be ready for the autumn term.

The guidance, which is being prepared with support from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is expected to contain clear instructions on keeping parents informed if their child says they want to be known socially with a new name and gender identity.

It will also give schools advice on which changing rooms can be used by transgender students, whether they can join unisex sports teams, and what uniform they should wear.

Currently, teachers have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to protect all pupils from discrimination, but there is no national guidance for schools on what to do when a child says they want to social transition.

It is understood that James Cleverly, who was appointed education secretary last month after his two predecessors resigned within days of each other, has no appetite to push such a big policy until a new prime minister and cabinet are appointed.

James Cleverly, the education secretary - Reuters/Phil Noble

James Cleverly, the education secretary – Reuters/Phil Noble

The guidance, which will require a sign-off from Suella Braverman, the attorney general, is not expected to be ready until next year.

Rebecca Bull, a workplace discrimination lawyer and co-founder of campaign group Sex Matters, said it “seems very likely” that without clearer guidance from the government, parents will continue to be “kept in the dark” about children telling their teachers they are in social adjustment.

She said: “We’ve had teachers contact us saying that in some schools this continues to happen even now – children being socialized without parental consent and in some cases teachers raise concerns about this and the school says that they will not inform the parents.

“I think they have a misunderstanding of their position and a misunderstanding that children in social transition actually put them on a medical path and they’re not eligible.”

Tanya Carter, a spokesperson for the Safe Schools Alliance, said: “One of the main problems at the moment is that schools are still socializing children behind their parents’ backs.

“We have mixed-gender toilets and mixed-gender changing rooms… Schools should have an understanding of safeguarding, but we are dealing with some schools where they use off-the-shelf products from external groups and there needs to be clear instructions from the government that this must stop this now.”

Robert Halfon - Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Robert Halfon – Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, said the DfE “needs to get some guidance for the autumn term”.

“I’m not quite clear why there has to be such a delay,” he said. “It’s something that James Cleverly needs to skyrocket. They can always update it later. There’s a lot of anxiety for parents and families.”

An interim report by Dr Hilary Cass, a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, warned earlier this year that social transition of a child was not a “neutral act”, and could “have significant effects on the child or young person the person in terms of their psychological functioning”.

The Bayswater Support Group, which represents parents whose children identify as transgender, said: “The interim Cass report has been available for months, so at least the Department for Education can give schools a summary and give a warning about social transition.”

A DfE spokesman said: “Schools should be a safe and welcoming space for all students, regardless of how they identify. We recognize that gender identity can be a complex and sensitive topic for schools to navigate, which is why we will work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure we provide the clearest possible guidance.”

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