With a growing number of children who change their gender during their school life (800% in the last 5 years according to BBC News), increasing pressure is being put on schools in order to provide support to these children.
Schools are now expected to be inclusive environments who celebrate diversity, welcoming all children and treating them equally. However, with young transgender people being increasingly accepted and supported in our modern society, schools have struggled to keep up with these fast-paced changes, ensuring they are providing the right support to these children.
At EA Audits, we are increasingly dealing with requests by schools to give advice on their pupils who wish 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.
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 a pupil 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.
How can schools help these children? It is very reasonable to assume that schools and teachers will have little experience in supporting a transgender student and would probably find the task quiet daunting.
There are a great deal of issues for schools to tackle in this area, starting with how they can help children who want to come out. There will also of course be issues with bullying to deal with, as well as decisions to be made surrounding the use of gender neutral language. On top of this, there are other areas schools must consider, such as allowing transgender pupils to choose which toilets and changing rooms they use, the possible installation of gender neutral changing rooms, school uniform choices, PE classes and so on.
Part of our Access Audit for your school covers all of the issues above. EA Audits will advise your school on gender reassignment and how to best support these children. We are extremely knowledgeable in this area, and can advise on ‘reasonable adjustments’ you can make to your school in order to include these pupils who are so often left out.
Please get in touch with us for more information on how we can help your school.