Trans guidance will urge schools to help parents protect children

Posted: 17th July 2023

Schools will be told to help parents protect their children in new government guidance on trans issues being published next week.

Downing Street is set to issue the advice to schools to provide clarity on how they should respond to the growing number of children saying they are transgender.

The Telegraph understands the guidance advises teachers that any pupil who wants to self-identify as a different gender should first undergo a period of reflection.

The idea is being supported by ministers as a way to make sure parents are fully informed.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is set to approve the guidance within days. Its publication comes as he faces the prospect of losing three Tory seats in by-elections on Thursday. No modern prime minister has lost three by-elections on a single day.

A senior government source told The Telegraph: “The guidance is all about parents being able to protect their kids, for kids to be protected and for teachers to have clarity.”

Calls for more clarity

In recent years, schools have faced a huge increase in the number of children identifying as trans.

In 2021-22, the NHS reported more than 5,000 referrals to the Gender Identity Development Service run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, up from just under 250 a decade earlier.

Teachers have called for more clarity on how they should accommodate trans children after a series of rows over schools’ actions. Earlier this year, a teacher claimed she was ordered to apologise to 11-year-olds at a private girls’ school for calling the pupils girls.

Parents have reported that a school allowed their child to identify as a different gender without their knowledge, only finding out from letters citing a new name and pronouns.

The advice will make it clear that schools will have to tell parents if their child wants to identify as a different gender or start using a new name, ensuring that families are kept informed.

All schools will also be told that they should have single-sex lavatories, changing rooms and boarding rooms, meaning none should have only gender-neutral toilets.

Advice on sports is expected to say that a boy who self-identifies as a girl should not be able to compete in contact sports with girls, and vice-versa. However, advice on non-contact sports is expected to be less strict.

Backing for spell of reflection

The long-awaited guidance has gone through rounds of redrafting between Downing Street, the education department and Kemi Badenoch, the women and equalities minister, after pressure from Tory MPs to make it harder for pupils to “socially transition” to a different gender.

It applies only to England, with the devolved administrations setting education policy for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The guidance also only applies to state schools, but private schools usually adopt the same or very similar approaches when such advice is issued by the Department for Education.

According to two well-placed sources, the latest draft includes a recommendation for a “watchful waiting period”.

That amounts to encouraging a spell of reflection before a child is permitted to identify as a different gender in the classroom. The idea is that such a pause could avoid children taking such fundamental decisions without sufficient consideration.

One government source close to the development of the policy said: “Before you make a decision that can have a major impact, it is sensible to ensure it is considered seriously.”

Proposals that the period should be set to a certain duration, such as three months, have been dismissed as too prescriptive.

Some MPs had suggested that children seeking to identify as a different gender in school should require approval from health professionals, but The Telegraph understands that this suggestion will not be in the guidance.

It comes as new guidance for civil servants is expected to say that women should have the right to question or criticise transgender identity in the workplace, and that people who are transitioning but have not legally changed gender cannot use the toilets of the opposite sex.

The guidance, initially reported by Vice news, is set to be published by the Cabinet Office in the autumn.

‘Protect free speech’

During the Conservative leadership campaign last summer, Mr Sunak set out his position on transgender issues alongside a pledge to safeguard free speech.

He said: “What’s the point in stopping the bulldozers in the green belt if we allow Left-wing agitators to take a bulldozer to our history, our traditions and our fundamental values?

“Whether it’s pulling down statues of historic figures, replacing the school curriculum with anti-British propaganda, or rewriting the English language so we can’t even use words like ‘man’, ‘woman’ or ‘mother’ without being told we’re offending someone.

“Our laws must protect free speech, block biological men from competing in women’s sport and ensure that children are allowed to be children.”

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