What is the new guidance on trans children for England's schools?

Wednesday, 20 December 2023 16:15 GMT

Pupils attend a lesson, at XP East High School, in Doncaster, Britain, February 20, 2023. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

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Schools should tell parents if their children are trans and can refuse to use their pronouns of choice, say new draft rules

By Lucy Middleton

LONDON, Dec 20 (Openly) - Schools will not have to accept a transgender child's wish to be recognised as the opposite sex, according to new draft guidance released by Britain's education ministry.

The new guidance for England, which will now enter a 12-week consultation period, also says that the parents of a trans child must be told if their son or daughter wants to change their name or pronouns at school.

Children under the age of 18 are already not legally or medically able to change gender in England.

Here's what you need to know.

Why is the guidance so significant?

Trans children have been the subject of scrutiny and fierce debate in Britain.

LGBTQ+ groups broadly say that young people's identities should respected. However, critics have argued to limit their access to affirming care on the basis that children could be rushed into making life-changing decisions and shared concerns over girls losing their right to single-sex spaces.

Previously, no guidance existed on how schools or teachers should handle children seeking to change their gender.

The draft guidance is not legally binding, but schools will be strongly encouraged to adopt it.

What are the key points of the guidance?

The draft guidance says trans children should not be allowed to socially transition at school without their parents' permission, although it allows for exceptions if this might cause "a significant risk of harm".

Socially transitioning refers to when a person lives as the opposite gender, including changing their name or pronouns without legal or medical intervention.

Primary school-aged children - aged between four and 11 - should not be allowed to use different gender pronouns, the guidance says. Schools are also free to reject requests to change pronouns for older children.

Children who have socially transitioned should not have access to single-sex spaces that do not correspond to their legal sex, such as toilets, showers, changing rooms or dormitories, the guidance says.

If this will cause a trans pupil "distress", it recommends creating additional facilities to ensure current spaces remain single-sex.

The draft rules also recommend mandating separate-sex participation in sport among teenage children and says single-sex schools can refuse to admit pupils on the basis of gender.

"This guidance is intended to give teachers and school leaders greater confidence when dealing with an issue that has been hijacked by activists misrepresenting the law," said Kemi Badenoch, the minister for women and equalities.

A consultation on the draft guidance will run until March.

How have LGBTQ+ groups responded?

The guidance has been described as "unworkable, out of touch and absurd" by Mermaids, a British organisation that supports trans and gender-diverse children.

"Rather than listening to trans young people and reflecting best practice of inclusive educators across the UK, the government has created more confusion for schools and is putting young people at risk," a Mermaids spokesperson told Openly.

"It is difficult to understand how aspects of this draft guidance, including automatically excluding trans pupils from facilities, sport bans or allowing students to be misgendered are compatible with existing equalities law."

Related stories:

Back to school: The government’s new guidance will make trans kids even more vulnerable

Nearly half of LGBT+ pupils feel unsafe at school in England, study finds

What are trans self-ID laws and what impact do they have?

(Reporting by Lucy Middleton; editing by . The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.openlynews.com/)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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