Trans guidance for schools tackles stereotyping and keeping children safe

Besi Besemar October 7, 2018

Tackling out dated language and assumptions about behaviour based on gender is beneficial for all children – Gender stereotypes are old-fashioned and create unnecessary barriers.

THESE messages are central to the latest edition of the Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit, launched last week and soon to be shared with schools across the city.

The toolkit is part of wide programme of equality work in local schools. The council works in partnership with schools, charities and community groups to prevent and respond to all forms of bullying and discrimination – they aim is to support schools to create safe learning environments.

Originally published in 2014, the toolkit offers practical advice about how to help vulnerable young people questioning their identity or who’ve identified as trans.

The guidance is prepared in consultation with key partner Allsorts Youth Project, other LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) organisations, and local schools.

The toolkit covers guidance on topics such as gender stereotyping, language, clothing, name changes, safeguarding, confidentiality, toilet provision, special educational needs, pronoun use and changing facilities for sports. There is also an extensive glossary explaining many trans related definitions.

The toolkit is used by schools, along with other policies such as safeguarding, in the best interests of all in the school community and recommends schools engage actively with parents, children and staff on these issues.

Cllr Emma Daniel
Cllr Emma Daniel

Cllr Emma Daniel, lead councillor for neighbourhoods and inclusion, said: “I am dedicated to creating an inclusive city where all children feel safe and secure. Supporting vulnerable young people is a vital part of our work. We are proud of the equality work which has already had great results but know there is more we can and will need to do in the future.  

“The aim of the toolkit is to keep all children safe, not only trans children. All children benefit from an environment that challenges gender stereotypes and allows each child to be proud of who they are.

“A small number of children struggle with gender identity and this can be from a very young age. If trans children don’t get support and understanding they may hurt themselves and refuse school. I believe children deserve to be safe and have access to education.

“This isn’t new. Schools across the city are welcoming and inclusive. The updated toolkit is one element of a wide range of guidance used to ensure the welfare and safety of all pupils.

“Our toolkit is useful and supports schools to be safe places for every child and where every child is able to access the full curriculum and extra curricula activities. That has to be the right approach. We can and will help those in need.” 

There is also a legal reason to take responsibility in providing guidance for schools. The Equality Act 2010 protects anyone undergoing or proposing to undergo gender reassignment from discrimination. A pupil is legally protected from discrimination when they are taking steps to live as the opposite gender or proposing to do so.

There is no national record of numbers of trans children and young people. However the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), the only centre for children and adolescents in England, has seen referrals increase year on year. In 2016, GIDS received 1,398 referrals. Although there is no information on how many trans pupils are in schools in Brighton & Hove, the guidance is sent to all schools so they can consider the issues in the context of the whole school.

A parent’s experience of the Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit by

Mum to a trans child in Brighton & Hove explains her experience as a parent of the Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit 

“Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a Parents’ Handbook. When we have children we take a leap of faith and rely on the support of friends and family to guide us and support us as they grow.

“When my child told me he was trans everything changed. Suddenly my friends and family had no relevant experience, instead they had questions and challenged us on our supportive approach. We knew next to nothing about being trans and worked hard to educate ourselves on what it meant, how it can happen, and how we should be.

“We often felt lonely, isolated and under intense scrutiny from our community. We were fiercely protective of our child, but didn’t really know how to protect them, what was the most loving approach, or what was legal.

“Coming out to friends and family was a necessary step and although most people were supportive the challenging questions rocked our wavering confidence. It was emotionally exhausting, but we had a child who was certain and excited about their future and showed no fear in pushing ahead.

“When we approached school to let them know he was ready to socially transition at school they were supportive, but full of questions. Our child was their first trans pupil and they wanted us to let them know how they could help us. Quite honestly at this point we did not have the strength or certainty to know what was best for our child. We were lost at a time when we needed to be the ones with the answers.

“Then along came the Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit. It was such a relief to read some clearly thought out advice on how to handle situations such as changing for PE, using the toilet and behaviour. Our child has been in three different schools and each time the school has used the Toolkit extremely effectively to understand how they can support not only our child, but other students.

“In his most recent school the effect of this has been that he has felt fully included and safe in school and is now accessing education after many months of school refusal. The whole process has been quicker and I cannot emphasise what a relief it is to feel like we are all in the hands of experts across many different organisations who have many years of experience in both education and in supporting young LGBT+ people.

“The Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit has enabled parents and educators to quickly, simply and legally see how all children can be supported in schools. Without it I suspect our son would be unable to access mainstream education. With it he is thriving, and accessing his lessons which is incredibly important for vulnerable students.

“His experiences of being trans combined with the gift of education means he is determined to use all of his talents as a working adult to make his community a better place. We are very grateful to everyone at Allsorts and Brighton & Hove City Council for their part in writing and producing the Toolkit.”