Statement on government draft guidance for trans children in schools in England

At FFLAG we have spent the last 30 years supporting the parents of LGBTQ+ children and young adults. Our lived experiences as parents have consistently shown that schools are often a hostile place for LGBTQ+ students. We need our schools to be safe and inclusive spaces but this draft guidance, if implemented, would undoubtedly make schools less safe for trans, intersex, non-binary and gender questioning children.  

The draft guidance is so fundamentally flawed we request it be withdrawn in its current form and a new consultation process is started, building on the good practices already in place to support gender questioning children in many schools. This draft guidance fails children, fails teachers and fails parents and families. 

The draft guidance barely mentions the ‘best interest’ principle enshrined in the Children Act 1989 and it is hard to see how the guidance can ever operate in a way that acts in the best interests of a gender questioning child. Instead, the draft guidance seems to prioritise the feelings of everyone else – other pupils, parents, teachers – at the expense of the gender questioning child and on the false assumption that those other people will somehow be scared or upset or inconvenienced by the gender questioning child. The draft guidance is virtually silent on how schools should positively support the gender questioning child.

The draft guidance appears to be based on the implicit assumption that gender questioning students are a risk to others and not individuals worthy of support and care in their own right. We reject that assumption categorically – it has no basis in evidence and is actually contradicted by paragraph 203 of the government’s own safeguarding statutory guidance, ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023’ (‘KCSIE23’).  

The proposal that schools should “out” children to their parents against the child’s wishes is bad guidance and will undoubtedly increase harm for children and parents. The presumption that all parents of gender questioning children will be supportive is sadly wrong. As parents we want schools to be a safe space for our children but this draft guidance would remove the ability for schools to be that safe space for gender questioning children, something that also directly contradicts paragraph 204 of the existing statutory guidance ‘KCSIE23’.  

We believe this draft guidance comes from a place of hostility to gender questioning children, not support. The draft barely mentions the word transgender, says almost nothing about non binary identities and makes no mention at all of intersex children. The use of phrases like ‘gender confusion’ and ‘contested belief’ seem designed to belittle and undermine. 

As parents of LGBTQ+ children we can speak to the truth that our children know who they are, know who they are attracted to, and understand their gender.  The attempt to dismiss this reality as a ‘contested belief’ speaks to how harmful this guidance really is. It should be withdrawn and a fresh draft created, promoting inclusion and responding to the needs of teachers, trans children and their families.

Consultation on the draft guidance runs until 12th March 2024. We encourage everyone to respond to the consultation  and to write to your MP to voice your concerns.