Department for Education proposed guidance for schools and colleges: gender questioning children - consultation response

In March 2024, we responded to the Department for Education's draft guidance for schools and colleges in England on responding when a gender questioning or transgender child wishes to socially transition in school. The guidance makes suggestions for parental involvement and use of gendered spaces such as toilets and changing rooms, as well as use of language such as pronouns.

Our response

We responded to this consultation in March 2024, raising concerns about how this guidance may impact both the wellbeing of gender questioning and trans children and their peers.

Our summary

  • We note an overarching concern that this guidance does not adhere to section 1 of the Children Act 1989, which sets out that the wellbeing of the child is paramount. We are concerned that this guidance dissuades schools from placing the best interests of their pupils at the heart of decision making, increases the risk of bullying in schools and is unlikely to facilitate a school environment where pupils are supported to be themselves.
  • We raise concerns around the assumption that safeguarding concerns would ‘rarely’ arise as a result of informing parents of a child’s desire to transition without the child’s consent, and ask the Department to conduct an evidence review in relation to this.
  • We highlight that the guidance is likely to be in breach of the Equality Act 2010, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights, and urge the Department to conduct an impact assessment to explore this further.
  • We raise additional concerns about the provisions for primary school aged children, in particular that the guidance may result in missed opportunities to manage distress by implementing a blanket approach to denying primary school aged children the option to change their pronouns, rather than encouraging schools to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
  • We remind the Department of their duty to engage with children and young people on this important topic, to understand the viewpoint of a range of school age children, both those who are trans and gender questioning, and those who are not, in order to fully understand what our young people want to see in their school environments.

Download and read the response in full below.

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