Whilst the law is relatively straightforward, the difficulties for many schools come in the practicalities of supporting these pupils and understanding all different scenarios that may arise.
There are several good sources of practical advice around and in this article we have signposted schools to further information.
You will be aware that under the Equality Act 2010, gender reassignment is a protected characteristic which apply to transgender pupils. A school will therefore be acting unlawfully if they discriminate directly or indirectly against a pupil who is undergoing, or proposing to undergo gender reassignment, or if the school fails to protect that pupil from victimisation.
There is no definitive point at which a pupil will become a transgender person and there is no requirement for the pupil to be undergoing a medical procedure, however where a pupil expresses a preference or asks to be referred to by another name this is usually considered a trigger point for the school to provide support for that pupil as part of its duties under the Equality Act. This obligation will also be closely linked with your safeguarding duties under Keeping Children Safe in Education (DfE, September 2018) to take positive action to ensure children have the best outcomes and are protected from any bullying, including transphobic bullying, or peer-on-peer abuse.
In a report by Stonewall carried out in 2017, the charity found that more than 44% of transgender pupils reported that staff at their school were not familiar with the meaning of the term 'trans'.
It is therefore essential to ensure appropriate training is given to staff, governors/trustees, volunteers and any other stakeholders to give them the tools to deal with any situation sensitively and appropriately.
Statistics show that young transgender people will be at increased risk of suicide and self-harming, and you should ensure their safeguarding procedures are reflective of these risks.
The NASUWT Trans Equality in Schools and College - Advice and Guidance for Teachers and Leaders provides further guidance for teachers which may be a useful point of reference for training purposes.
Schools should ensure that pupils are being educated on equality issues including issues arising out of gender reassignment and encouraged to challenge gender stereotypes both in and out of the classroom setting. A culture of diversity and acceptance should be actively encouraged throughout the school community.
You should have robust policies, systems and awareness in place to challenge any negative stereotypes or misunderstandings.
Mermaids UK provides useful resource for pupils.
Under the Equality Act, all pupils are able to use the toilet that corresponds with the gender they identify with. As a starting point the pupil and their parents should be consulted, to ensure that the pupil is happy with any toilet provision. This will also apply to changing rooms and will likely differ on a case by case basis depending on the pupil.
You should also be careful of the label assigned to these facilities, to ensure the pupil does not feel singled out when using them. Many schools now adopt gender-neutral signage and simply refer to the facilities as 'toilet'.
Any formal changes made to a pupil's name or gender should be carried out in accordance with legislation and guidance. Regulation 5(1)(a) Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 (as amended) requires schools to record the full legal name of a pupil in the Admission Register. This will be the name that appears on the pupil's birth certificate unless this is subsequently changed by deed poll and with the consent of all those with parental responsibility for the child if under the age of 18. This is then the name which must be used in all formal documents, applications, reports, examination entries, etc.
The Unique Pupil Numbers and Unique Learner Numbers will all be linked to a pupil's legal name, but as we have set out below, schools will be able to enter and use the pupil's use preferred names on their internal information systems.
In relation to public examinations you should also check in advance the policies of the exam boards at the time of registration of the pupils to ensure that any examination certificates can be issued to reflect the preferred name and gender of the pupil.
Informally, teachers should be careful they are using the preferred pronoun and name of the pupil. This is important not only for the pupil's transition, but also to protect confidentiality in front of their peers.
All transgender pupils will have the right to wear the uniform that corresponds with the gender they identify with. This can be one of the biggest steps the child may take and children will need to be supported throughout to make this as comfortable as possible. Any request to vary the school's uniform policy will be on a case by case basis and should be discussed in advance with the pupil and their parents.