Children allowed to self-declare gender at nearly half of schools

Posted: 30th March 2023

Parents kept in the dark as teachers increasingly turn to external agencies that promote ‘controversial and contested beliefs’, warns report.

Nearly half of secondary schools are allowing children to self-declare their gender without parental consent, an investigation has found.

Downing Street is being urged to intervene by MPs and peers in light of the findings.

Freedom of Information requests to more than 300 state secondary schools in England have found that 40 per cent are allowing children to self-declare their gender.

The research, by the think tank Policy Exchange, also found that more than 30 per cent of schools are failing to inform their Designated Safeguarding Lead when a child wishes to change gender.

The report claims that the practice of affirming a child’s feelings of “gender distress”, where a child thinks there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity, has become “embedded within the classroom, meaning secondary schools are effectively facilitating medical interventions on site”.

Nadhim Zahawi, the former education secretary, said: “This Policy Exchange report marks an important contribution to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that urgent attention needs to be paid to the ways children are being impacted by gender identity beliefs.”

Baroness Morris of Yardley, a former Labour education secretary, said: “Children deserve to be kept safe and action is now urgent.”

No single-sex toilets

According to the report, only 28 per cent of schools said that they would reliably inform a parent as soon as a child disclosed they were questioning their gender.

The investigation also found that 28 per cent of schools do not have single-sex toilets, while at least 19 per cent are not maintaining single-sex changing rooms.

Schools have been waiting for almost a year for new transgender guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) to help them navigate a rise in the number of pupils who say they want to change their gender identity.

Civil servants started working on the guidance last April when Mr Zahawi was in charge of the department. However, work on the guidance has stalled under a succession of new leaders and is now due to be published “later this year”, according to the DfE.

The Policy Exchange investigation traces safeguarding breaches back to the influence of external agencies backed by public money which it claims have embedded “controversial and contested beliefs” about gender identity in relationships and sex education lessons in schools.

External agencies with partisan aims have also influenced school policies for children with gender distress, the researchers found. MPs have raised concerns about the growing influence of third-party providers since 2019, when the DfE’s latest RSE guidance was produced in consultation with the LGBT+ charity Stonewall.

Under the Education Act 1996, schools are required to tell parents if a child discloses information not known to them, unless there is a safeguarding risk. The Act also forbids the partisan teaching of ideology in schools.

However, school leaders have said they need more guidance about how to respond to children who question their gender identity. Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, told MPs last year that there was currently “very limited guidance” available on the matter and schools needed help navigating a “minefield”.

Children taught they ‘may be born in wrong body’

FOI responses collected by Policy Exchange showed that 72 per cent of secondary schools are now teaching that people have a gender identity that may be different from their biological sex, while 25 per cent are teaching that some people or children “may be born in the wrong body”.

In a foreword to the Policy Exchange report, Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP and prominent women’s rights campaigner, said: “This Government has failed children by allowing partisan beliefs to become entrenched within the education system. Meanwhile, the Opposition has failed to pull them up on it.”

She warned that “thousands of children are being harmed” because those in authority have failed to stand up to “the radical beliefs being pushed by campaigners”.

She compared the safeguarding failures in schools to the failings uncovered at the NHS’s former gender identity service for young people at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.

“While it is right that the clinical failures suffered by countless children with gender distress has been rightly exposed, these failures are being repeated in the school system”, said Ms Duffield.

The report calls for schools to automatically inform parents when a child discloses feelings of gender distress at school, unless there is a compelling reason for them not to be informed. It calls for no school to facilitate a child’s social transition, such as changing their pronouns, unless parents have been fully involved.

Schools must be required to publish all RSE material online, it said. The Government has also been asked to “urgently commission” an independent review of RSE materials which is independent of the DfE because it has been “too closely involved in the development of the current situation.”

Earlier this month, Rishi Sunak ordered the DfE to bring forward a review of sex education in schools after an investigation by the Telegraph found widespread evidence of pupils being taught radical gender ideology.

A DfE spokesman said: “Our priority will always be the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. The Education Secretary is working closely with the Minister for Women and Equalities to produce guidance for schools which we will be consulting on shortly. In the meantime, we are clear that schools should make sure they work with parents, pupils and public services to decide what is best for individual children.”

Source: Nearly half of secondary schools allow children to self-declare gender without parental consent, investigation finds (

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