'Parents first' in government's new transgender guidance as teachers 'do not have a duty' to let pupils change gender

19 December 2023, 09:24

Gillian Keegan (l) head up the Department for Education, which which is due to publish trans guidance
Gillian Keegan (l) head up the Department for Education, which which is due to publish trans guidance. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Schools will be told that they do not have a “duty” to allow children to change their gender identity in long-awaited new government guidance.

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Guidelines from the Department for Education, to be published later, will call for a 'presumption against' allowing children to change gender at school.

A new 'parents first' approach will advise that in all but the most exceptional cases, they should be informed at the first opportunity if their child asks to be known as having a different gender at school.

Government to publish long-awaited guidance on trans pupils
Government to publish long-awaited guidance on trans pupils. Picture: Alamy

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The Times suggests the guidance will require schools to inform parents if their children say they wish to change their gender identity, with some narrow exemptions.

It adds that teachers will not be compelled to address children who want to change their gender identity by their chosen pronoun if they have a "good faith" objection.

But activist schools are already threatening to flout the new gudelines.

Chesterfield High School in Liverpool insisted parents should only be notified if there is a safeguarding risk.

Kevin Sexton, executive headteacher said: "Children come to our school and hopefully we have a positive experience.

"If we don't create a positive experience, they won't come to school, and they will be more unsafe, and more likely to make bad choices."

The draft guidance on transgender issues for schools in England was originally due to be published before the summer holidays but it was delayed to ensure it met the "high expectations" of teachers and parents.

Earlier this month, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told MPs that the document would "hopefully" be out before Christmas and there would then be a long consultation on the draft guidance.

Without commenting on when it will be published, the Prime Minister's spokesman told reporters on Monday: "It's a complex area, as Scotland has experienced and other countries have experienced. It's right to take the time to get this right. That's the important thing.

"Ministers are working on it carefully and we'll set out the details as soon as possible."

Asked whether an outright ban on social transitioning by children in school has been ruled out, the official said: "I'm not going to get into what is or is not in the guidance or which approach the Government will or will not take.

"We've said before our guiding principle is to ensure the protection of children, that any degree of social transitioning could have significant psychological effects on a child ... so it is vital that safeguards are in place. The guidance will reflect that."

Today's guidance is likely to disappoint Tory MPs who wanted a total school ban on social transitioning – when boys adopt girls' names, pronouns, uniforms and hairstyles, and vice versa.

Rishi Sunak was said to have been sympathetic to such calls but the legal advice was that this would need a rewriting of the Equality Act.

A spokesman for LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said: "This guidance, which we have not yet seen in full, needs to first and foremost make sure that trans and gender-diverse youth are supported to be themselves and have an environment where they can learn and thrive.

"There is considerable evidence that social transition improves the mental health of trans children and young people and from what we are hearing about this guidance their needs have not been properly considered."