Senior minister insists teachers should be allowed to stop pupils from presenting as other genders at school as staff complain they are powerless to stop them – despite the law being on their side
- Teachers say they pressured to accommodate children questioning gender
- They are awaiting guidance from Education Department on issue later this year
- Many argue local educational authorities are influenced by trans campaigners
The ‘war on woke’ escalated last night after a senior Minister accused education officials of abandoning teachers opposed to pupils changing gender too young.
Teaching staff have complained to Whitehall that schools are preventing them from following Government legal advice which means they can refuse to allow a biologically male child to wear a girls’ uniform, or stop them from participating in girls-only sports.
The Minister told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Many teachers feel that they want to do more to push the stop button when they see children questioning their gender, and it is clear that they have the legal right to do so, but they feel under pressure to keep quiet. They are being abandoned.’
The row comes amid growing tensions in both the Tory and Labour parties over transgender rights, and against the backdrop of a dispute between Westminster and the SNP after the UK Government blocked controversial Scottish laws making it easier for people to legally change gender.
The legal position on ‘gender reassignment’ was set out last August by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was then the Attorney General.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman set out the legal position on ‘gender reassignment’ last August while Attorney General, but one minister said teachers feel ‘under pressure’ to stay quiet over pupils changing gender too young.
Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education, has publicly backed trans campaigners who say children of 16 should be old enough to change their legal gender without parental consent
She made it clear that teachers were under no obligation to accommodate children who questioned their gender on issues ‘from preferred pronouns to use of facilities and competing in schools’.
Ms Braverman added: ‘All this is sometimes taking place without informing their parents or taking into account the impact on other children.
‘Anyone who questions such an approach is accused of transphobia.
‘Teachers who socially transition a child without the knowledge or consent of parents or without medical advice increase their exposure to a negligence claim for breach of their duty of care to that child.’
But, six months later, many teachers who try to cite that legal position are still being told that they can’t intervene until the Education Department has issued its own guidance.
Last night, a spokesman for Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said it would be issued later this year.
Ms Keegan has publicly backed trans campaigners who say children of 16 should be old enough to change their legal gender without parental consent.
When Schools Minister Nick Gibb was asked last week about the delay in issuing direct guidance to schools, he said: ‘The department recognises that this is a complex and sensitive subject for schools to navigate, which is why it is developing guidance to support schools in relation to transgender pupils.
‘It is important that the department considers a wide range of views to ensure the guidance is right.
‘As such, the department has committed to holding a full public consultation on the draft guidance, prior to publication.’
However, that consultation will allow trans rights lobbying groups to swamp Whitehall with objections that could further delay the introduction of guidelines.
Schools across the country report a growing number of children who say their gender differs from their biological sex.
For those born female, there are worries this can lead to hormone treatment and eventually surgery to remove breasts and wombs.
The row comes amid growing tensions in both the Tory and Labour parties over transgender rights, and against the backdrop of a dispute between Westminster and the SNP after the UK Government blocked controversial Scottish laws making it easier for people to legally change gender. Pictured: Demonstrators show support for the Scottish gender reform bill last month
Some parents also worry that schools are taking at face value claims by male-born pupils to be female and allowing them access to girls’ toilets and changing rooms.
Many teachers say the legal position on such issues is unclear, and local educational authorities are often influenced by trans rights campaign groups who tell them that schools are legally obliged to accept pupils’ assertions about their gender and not involve parents.
The Safe Schools Alliance campaign group said that the Education Department’s foot-dragging on issuing guidelines meant that many schools were taking an approach on gender issues which was bad for children.
A spokesperson said: ‘We get many emails from teachers who are also struggling and are fearful for their jobs if they complain.
‘A school’s first duty towards its pupils is to safeguard them all. If schools had always followed a “safeguarding first” approach they would have deployed professional curiosity when first confronted with children adopting opposite sex and other identities.
‘A widespread failure to use a holistic approach and deal with this phenomenon under safeguarding, while considering what else was going on in children’s lives, particularly online, has led to a national medical and safeguarding scandal.’
In her statement, Ms Braverman said that teachers should be aware that ‘it can be lawful for a school to refuse to allow a biologically male child, who identifies as a trans girl, to wear a girls’ uniform… for a school to refuse a biologically and legally male child who identifies as a trans girl from participating in girls’ single-sex sporting activities’ and that ‘parents do have the right to know what is being taught to their children’.
There have been multiple cases recently where schools have refused to tell parents what their children are being taught about trans issues.
Transgender guidance has been available to teachers north of the border for some time, controversially stating that children as young as four can change their gender at school without their parents’ consent.
The advice adds that even ‘primary schools need to be able to meet the needs of these young people to ensure they have a safe, inclusive and respectful environment.’
One section says children simply need to tell others informally that they want to use a different name, and that they don’t need to record this on their official school record.
Staff are also advised to ask pupils what name and pronoun they want to use.
The advice also says that teachers should ask pupils if their family are aware they are considering their gender identity – but does not suggest the teacher should contact them.
The guidance document also states that no Scottish law compels people to use the toilets that correspond to their biological sex.
Some children are able to play sport at school as the opposite sex.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘Each case will be different, but schools should decide what is best for individual children.
‘Our job is to support schools and that is why the Education Secretary is working closely with the Women and Equalities Minister to provide guidance and we plan to consult on a draft before final publication.’
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