Group of girls’ schools say they will not accept transgender students and ‘jeopardize’ their status as single-sex institutions

A group from the country’s leading girls’ schools said they would not accept transgender students as it would “jeopardize” their status as single-sex institutions.

The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), which represents 23 private schools as well as two academies, updated its gender identity policy guidance document last month to include a new section on admissions.

It is rare for a single-sex school group to take a public stand on the admissions issue, and this could pave the way for others to follow suit.

The guidelines state that GDST schools do not accept applications from legally male students, even if they identify as female.

Having an admission policy based on ‘gender identity rather than legal sex recorded on a student’s birth certificate would jeopardize the status of GDST schools as single-sex schools’ under the law on equality, he said.

A student who begins the transition when she is already in school should be supported to stay in school for as long as she wants, he adds.

Updated guide

The guide, first published in 2016, was updated and shared with member schools just before the Christmas holidays. The GDST said it always kept its policies under review, adding that its latest guidelines were developed “in collaboration with experts, teachers and students.”

It comes as school leaders urge the government to release national guidelines on transgender issues for schools, saying education officials “are struggling” to cope.

School leaders said that in the absence of any official direction from the Department of Education (DfE), they ended up with the advice of pressure groups when deciding how to react when a student identified himself as being of the opposite sex.

Julie McCulloch of the Association of School of College Leaders (ASCL) said that as more children “come out” as transgender, leaders are forced to engage in the heated debate between biological sex and gender. genre.

“This is a very big problem and the lack of formal guidance for schools is something that concerns us,” she told The Telegraph.

“This problem has grown quite rapidly over the past few years and it certainly looks like something that has become much more common. Increasingly, this is something almost all schools need to think about, but unisex schools in particular. “

Referrals to gender identity clinics are increasing

The number of young people in the UK referred to gender identity clinics has increased 17-fold over the past decade, according to the figures.

Figures from the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), which is the only NHS facility for transgender children based at Tavistock Center in north London, show 2,383 young people were referred in 2021-2021, up from 138 in 2010- 11.

If a student announces to teachers that they wish to switch to the opposite sex, there may be a number of issues that the school needs to consider. First, they should decide what to say to the child’s parents, if anything. Then they should think about how to communicate the new gender of the child to their peers and teachers.

They may also consider whether the student should be allowed to use washrooms and locker rooms – as well as join sports teams – that match their new gender as opposed to their biological sex. This can be more complicated in a single-sex school where there are no separate facilities for boys and girls.

Meanwhile, single-sex schools face the added dilemma of what to do if a student applies on the basis of the gender they identify with rather than their biological sex.

Ms McCulloch said it was a “very difficult area” for a director to manage and added that ASCL members “often have difficulty” knowing how to respond.

Schools are committed to doing the right thing for all students

“They want to do the right thing for the child in transition and also to do the right thing for the other children in the school,” she explained.

“I think they’re caught between different interest groups, between the needs and wants of parents and students in different situations. There is advice from a whole range of organizations, but most of it comes from the position of this particular lobby group which is very difficult for schools to navigate. “

A number of different organizations publish their own advice for schools on what to do if a student identifies as transgender.

Stonewall, a charity that champions LGBTQ + rights and works with 600 schools each year through its School and Colleges Champions membership program, provides advice to schools on transgender issues.

He says trans students should generally be allowed to use washrooms and locker rooms as well as join sports teams that “match their gender identity” unless there are “reasonable safety concerns. “.

He adds that children should be allowed to stay in the residence or boarding school “in which they feel most comfortable”. Citing the Equality Act of 2010, Stonewall also claims that a trans child can attend a single-sex school that matches their gender identity rather than their biological sex.

Orientation for primary schools

Equaliteach, an organization funded by the DfE, also publishes guidance for elementary schools which states that trans children should be referred using any pronouns of their choice which could be “she / she”, “he / him” or options. non-binary of “they / their” or “ze / zir.” Consistent use of the wrong pronouns “could be considered harassment,” their paper adds.

Schools should have a list of “gender-neutral” school uniforms and trans children “have the right” to dress in the uniform that best suits them. Equaliteach goes further than Stonewall by telling schools that it is an “act of discrimination” to deny a child the use of a toilet that matches their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.

They also say that there is “no duty to inform parents” if a child announces their new gender identity at school and add that the teacher must be careful not to “accidentally declare” the child to his parents as transgender.

In recent years, many schools have started implementing ‘gender neutral’ toilets and facilities, acting on the advice of groups who say this is ‘best practice’.

Richard Cairns, principal of Brighton College, which costs £ 43,650 a year, said there were “two or three kids at a time” in his school looking to switch to the opposite sex.

“We would always meet the parents and find reasonable ways to move forward and that benefits everyone,” he said.

“It all comes down to making adjustments to make a young person feel good about himself – the way he wears his hair, wears pants rather than a skirt, or sometimes he wishes he was in another house. there is not just any particular program, it is just a matter of treating a child as an individual “.

But some parents are “horrified” to learn how their children learn gender identity in school, according to Stephanie Davies-Arai, director of the Transgender Trend group which offers advice to families on the sex and gender of young people.

Gender neutral toilets

“We are increasingly contacted by parents who are really concerned about the rights of girls,” she said. “More and more schools are installing gender neutral toilets. Many parents contact us to say that their daughter refuses to go to the bathroom.

“There are also complaints about sports teams – when someone who is biologically male is allowed to compete with girls. Girls don’t feel like they can complain because they don’t want to be portrayed as fanatics, so it’s very difficult for them to express themselves.

Ms. Davies-Arai founded Transgender Trend in 2015 after worrying about the number of children in the care of schools and other institutions switching to the opposite sex.

She said the other big issue was the transition of children “behind their parents’ backs”, where schools do not inform families of the student’s new gender identity.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was supposed to publish guidelines to help schools interpret the Equality Act 2010 and how it applies to trans students.

Lack of jurisprudence

But last year the guidelines – which would have forced girls’ schools to admit trans students – were struck down by the equality watchdog, accusing a “lack of definitive case law” on the issue.

The equality watchdog has now urged the government to “show leadership” and issue its own guidelines. “We recently wrote to the Education Ministry asking if they intended to do so and to offer our advice and support in the process if they decide to do so,” a spokesperson said. to the Telegraph.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “Appropriately supporting all children in a school can involve balancing complex and sensitive issues, and schools are best placed to work with parents, students and public services. to determine the best approach. All students should be supported and treated with kindness and respect.

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