Parent first approach at the core of new guidance on gender questioning children
Schools and colleges told that parents should be involved in decisions affecting their children
Today (19 December) the Department for Education has published comprehensive guidance for teachers on how best to support pupils questioning their gender in schools.
This includes requests from pupils for ‘social transition’ which can include requests to change pronouns, names, and uniform.
In response to the complex phenomenon of the increasing number of children questioning their gender, the government has taken the time to carefully and robustly address the challenges and issues involved.
The guidance will assist teachers in ensuring that they are acting in the best interests of children.
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said:
"This guidance puts the best interests of all children first, removing any confusion about the protections that must be in place for biological sex and single-sex spaces, and making clear that safety and safeguarding for all children must always be schools’ primary concern.
"Parents’ views must also be at the heart of all decisions made about their children – and nowhere is that more important than with decisions that can have significant effects on a child’s life for years to come."
Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch said:
"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.
"It makes clear that schools do not have to accept a child’s request to socially transition, and that teachers or pupils should not be pressured into using different pronouns.
"We are also clear how vital it is that parents are informed and involved in the decisions that impact their children’s lives."
Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman
"I have long called for clear guidance for schools who face difficult choices around how to help pupils who are gender-questioning.
"This guidance is therefore welcome and will help schools do their best both for gender-questioning pupils and for all other pupils in their schools."
This guidance has been developed with the expert clinical view and interim conclusions from the Cass Review in mind. That review set out that social transition is not a neutral act, and that better information is needed about the outcomes for children who undertake degrees of social transition. It also set out that it could have significant psychological effects on a young person.
In recognition of this, proper use of this guidance means social transition, in practice, should be extremely rare when the appropriate safeguards are put in place and the child’s best interest taken into account.
Importantly, the guidance places beyond doubt the fundamental principle that parents should be involved in decisions about their children’s lives, and that significant decisions affecting a child’s future should not be taken without parents being involved.
In regard to single-sex spaces and sports, the government sets out the principle that biological sex is fundamentally important when it comes to protecting safety and ensuring fairness in competitive sports.
Requests for social transition
The draft guidance clarifies that schools and colleges do not have to, and should not, accept all requests for social transition. Where a school considers a request, they should take a very cautious approach, including watchful waiting periods, and ensuring parents are fully consulted before any decision is taken.
From the outset, schools and colleges should also consider the context and seriousness of the request including whether social influence is involved.
In exceptional cases where a request to social transition is agreed, children, teachers or staff at a school should not be required to adopt the use of preferred pronouns and there must be no sanction, verbal or otherwise. Where a teacher or child does not adopt the new pronouns, they should use the child’s preferred name. Schools should ensure that bullying is never tolerated.
Single-sex spaces, admissions and sports
Where safety is a consideration – for example in physical sport or single-sex spaces – the guidance is categoric that it must never be compromised by allowing a child of the opposite sex to participate in those activities or use those facilities. Schools should also make sure competitive sport is fair, which will almost always mean separate sports for boys and girls especially in older cohorts.
The guidance also reaffirms that single-sex schools can refuse to admit pupils of the opposite sex, regardless of whether they are questioning their gender.
Parents, teachers, and school leaders are encouraged to respond to the 12-week consultation.