The UK government has removed protection for trans individuals in education.
Following a public outrage at the re-introduction by a number of UK schools and academies of Section 28 style policies, there is further controversy over a decision by the Department for Education (DfE) to remove ‘gender identity’ from its guidelines on teaching the national curriculum.
Equalities educator Alice Hoyle, on her blog Sex Edukation, exposed how the current draft of the National Curriculum Document has been altered from a previous version in February.
In the earlier draft, it said: ‘4.2 Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and religion or belief.’
But now, it has been amended to read: ‘Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.’
When asked why gender identity had been removed from the equalities statement, a Department for Education spokesman told GSN: ‘Teachers are best-placed to understand the needs of their pupils and to tailor their programme to reflect the needs of their pupils.’
A number of trans individuals and trans allies have expressed extreme disquiet at this decision by the DfE.
Natacha Kennedy, an education academic, said: ‘The 2013 draft … is in breach of the Equality Act, I have been working with schools to ensure that trans children are treated fairly, permitted equal access to education and properly included by schools.
‘I have encountered systematic transphobia on the part of many schools, and consequently there appears to be two default positions for trans children in most schools: fearfully hiding in the closet, and consequently under performing academically, or out as trans and bullied out of school.
‘The erasure of trans people from the National Curriculum is therefore of significant concern since the UK education system is failing trans children on a scale that would be considered unacceptable were it happening to any other group.
‘Not only do trans children need to be supported and included at all levels in schools but other children need to learn to accept trans children and not to discriminate against them.
‘The exclusion of transgender from the National Curriculum is therefore not merely illegal but unacceptable.’
Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence added: ‘At Gendered Intelligence we are seeing more and more young transgender people who are at school.
‘The Gender Identity Development service for children and adolescents are seeing their number of referrals doubling year on year.
‘There are some fantastic schools who are doing amazing work ensuring that their students who are coming out as Trans or gender queer feel safe and included in their learning environment.
‘This omission in the National Curriculum is sending out the wrong signal. More needs to be done to address the bullying and reinforcing of gender norms.’
Graham Stuart, Conservative MP for Beverley and Holdness, Chairman of the Education Select Committee said: ‘I have no idea why gender identity was removed from the draft national curriculum and have written to Ministers asking for an explanation.’