Britain’s ruling Conservative government issued guidance Tuesday for schools dealing with children considering changing their gender identity, in a key “culture war” issue likely to feature in the next election.
The education department said it had published the long-awaited guidelines for schools in England “in response to the complex phenomenon of the increasing number of children questioning their gender.”
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The issue has caused splits in the Tory party, with some right-wingers calling for an outright ban on children identifying as a different gender from their sex at birth.
The transgender guidance states that there is “no general duty to allow a child to ‘social transition’”.
But it adds that pupils “may be allowed to informally change their names if it is in the best interests of the child and parents have been fully consulted.”
Social transitioning can include going by a different name, dressing in a way that may commonly be more associated with the opposite sex and choosing one’s own pronouns.
The advice, which is not mandatory, says that teachers and children “should not be required” to use a child’s preferred pronouns.
It adds that “parents should not be excluded” from decisions taken by a school or college relating to a child’s request to socially transition.
The guidance, now subject to a 12-week consultation, reaffirms that single-sex schools can refuse to admit pupils of the opposite sex, regardless of whether they are questioning their gender.
Women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, who styles herself as “anti-woke”, said the guidance “is intended to give teachers and school leaders greater confidence when dealing with an issue that has been hijacked by activists misrepresenting the law”.
But Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said it appears the guidelines leave “a lot of questions unanswered, meaning school leaders will continue to be placed in an incredibly difficult position”.
Right-wing former prime minister Liz Truss, who ruled for 49 days last year, said in a statement the guidance “does not go far enough.”
She called for a change in the law that will “define sex as biological sex to protect single sex spaces” and also wants to ban under-18s from accessing puberty blockers.
In March, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised that the guidance would be published by the summer.
The advice does not apply to schools in Scotland and Wales, where education is devolved to the local administrations.