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What Can Schools Do to Support Transgender Pupils?

on Monday, 17 December 2018.

Schools are increasingly dealing with requests by pupils to be recognised as transgender.

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.

Your Legal Obligations

You will be aware that under the Equality Act 2010, gender reassignment is a protected characteristic. 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.

It is important to note that transgender starts at the point at which the pupils chooses to take steps to live in the opposite gender, or is proposing to do so. They will not have to be undergoing a medical procedure for the definition to apply.

This obligation will also be closely linked with your safeguarding duties to take positive action to ensure children have the best outcomes and are protected from any bullying or peer on peer abuse.

Staff Training

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.

Educating Pupils

Schools should ensure that pupils are being educated on equality issues 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.

Toilets and Changing Facilities

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.

Name Change

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 (ie the name that appears on their birth certificate). 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 use preferred names on their system.

You should also check 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.

Uniform

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. This will be on a case by case basis and should be discussed in advance with the pupil and their parents.

Further Resources for Schools


These will only be a small selection of the issues and resources that schools will need to think about. For further support and advice, please contact Yvonne Spencer on 0207 665 0870.

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