FBB strongly opposes the Government's Trans Guidance for Schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has released a consultation seeking the views of the public on draft guidance to assist schools, and colleges, with their support for gender-questioning children* 
FBB strongly opposes the guidance. 
We are concerned the trans exclusionary approach of the guidance will further isolate trans young people and increase their risk of ill mental health, social exclusion, and bullying. 
We are encouraging everyone to respond and use their voice to join us in calling for it to be re-written. Advice on how to fill it in can be found here. If you only have ten minutes, just answer "no" to every question and respond in detail to questions 41 and 42.

*In our work, we choose to use the terms "transgender", "non-binary" and "gender queer"  youth to reflect the preferences of our staff and young people. The government's guidance deliberately omits the terms "trans" and "transgender" to describe young people, which we believe is exclusionary.

Our vision for society and where the guidance fails

FBB’s vision is a society where every young person has a trusted adult at school through their adolescence. 

This guidance risks putting young people who are trans or NBGQ in a position where they have no one they can trust at school. The guidance downplays and misunderstands the challenges that trans and NBGQ youth face at schools. It states that parental consent would be required for a school to respect a child's decision to socially transition (except for in extreme circumstances). 

The guidance also proposes that teachers could not respect a child's chosen pronouns without school approval, which could allow them to freely misgender pupils, despite the fact that research shows that using correct pronouns can lead to a 71% reduction in symptoms of depression. #BeeWell also report that transgender young people report significantly higher levels of stress and lower levels of life satisfaction and psychological well being than their cisgender counterparts. 

Edurio - England's leading stakeholder feedback platform for schools and multi-academy trusts - recently found that just 22% of NBGQ young people feel they have a trusted adult at school. 

Data from Edurio

If we are to change this worrying statistic, deliberate work must be done to build relationships with trans and NBGQ young people and help them to feel safe at school. FBB’s theory of relationships is that safety and trust are built through memorable shared moments and long-term mutual disclosure.

Safeguarding young people

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) is the safeguarding guidance used by schools to protect students. It states clearly that “The fact that a child or a young person may be LGBT is not in itself an inherent risk factor for harm.”

However, young people without a trusted adult (such as a supportive parent, teacher or youth worker) with whom to discuss their identity are at significant risk of harm, which is also stated clearly in KCSiE: “risks can be compounded where children who are LGBT lack a trusted adult with whom they can be open.”

The guidance compromises teachers who might be this trusted adult. The guidance suggests that information should only be withheld from home if there is “an extreme or exceptional risk to the child” - this is too vague and risks making vulnerable children more isolated. 

We are concerned with the idea that teachers cannot act “unilaterally” to respect a child’s wishes (names, pronouns, uniform) and cannot act out of step with the school. This sets a terrible precedent for the autonomy that teachers - and importantly, young people - have in schools. 

The guidance makes no reference to training resources for teachers and it fails to reflect best practice support for those students who are questioning their gender identity, or trans children who have already transitioned. Crucially, it omits the voices of trans young people sharing how they might better be supported in schools. 

The guidance is also vague and contradictory when it comes to sport. Instead of training teachers and schools about how to do mixed sport safely, the guidance causes more divides, strips teachers of autonomy and removes the possibility of connection and relationship-building through sport. 

Playing sport is associated with a range of positive outcomes in later life, but vulnerable students are less likely to attend than their peers. Safety should not be an excuse for excluding trans and NBGQ young people from sport. Using football as a test case, The FA says football can be mixed until 16. At 16, when statutory Physical Education no longer applies, young people can join adult inclusive teams, such as Stonewall and TRUK United FC

“The aim of this guidance will be to provide practical advice to schools and colleges to help them make decisions in relation to gender-questioning children. The guidance will be non-statutory.

Thankfully, the guidance will be non-statutory. That means that schools do not have a legal duty to follow it. However, it’s still incredibly influential because most multi-academy trusts and local authorities will encourage their schools to align with Government guidance. 

To put it in context, non-statutory guidance also exists to help deliver the maths curriculum and advise on the amount of time children spend at school across the school week. Its influence reaches far beyond its legal standing. 

A more empathetic approach is required and this needs to be supported by additional training and support for schools. Teachers and schools are already stretched, and the government has missed an opportunity to upskill schools and offer best practice guidance on how to support some of the most vulnerable young people. This guidance will make life harder for trans and NBGQ young people across the country and their voices have been ignored. 

To highlight our opposition to this rhetoric and to call on the Government to do more to support trans youth, we have signed a statement produced by the coalition campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights - co-produced by Mermaids, LGBT Foundation, Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence and Trans Learning Partnership. The statement outlines the dangers of the guidance in its current form. We have joined a united call for the government to withdraw this draft guidance and rethink their approach so as to actually support LGBT+ students. 
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