The Scottish government has taken the welcome step of having a rethink on many areas concerning changes to the GRA. The LGBT Youth transgender schools guidance has now been withdrawn in Scotland due to concerns about girls being excluded from their own toilets and changing-rooms. The Scottish government will produce their own guidance following consultation and a full Equalities Impact Assessment. Scotland is leading the way on action which must now also be taken by Westminster on the schools guidance used throughout England and Wales.
We analysed the LGBT Youth Scotland transgender schools guidance when it was first published in 2017 and compared its advice with a selection of transgender schools toolkits used across England and Wales, including guidance from Stonewall, Allsorts and GIRES. Our report can be seen here. Our analysis shows that authorities in England and Wales are recommending that schools follow exactly the same advice as in the guidance recently withdrawn in Scotland, which has been shown to have a negative impact on the rights of girls. Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville made this announcement to the Scottish Parliament:
“However the complexity of these issues mean valid concerns have been raised. The Scottish Government recognises that in taking the unarguably good general principle of inclusivity, and developing specific recommendations, the approach risks potentially excluding other girls from female-only spaces. That cannot be right.”
This is a major victory for grass-roots feminist campaign groups such as For Women Scotland, Women and Girls in Scotland and Scottish Women and the courageous politicians who have spoken out, notably Joan McAlpine who said in a statement:
“I also welcome the government’s decision to replace the LGBT Youth Scotland transgender guidance for schools, which was shown to have a negative impact on the privacy and dignity of girls, as well as the government’s recognition that statistics on sex matters. For too long public authorities have failed to distinguish between sex and gender and this must change.”
All school policies must be fully compliant with existing Equality law and protect the rights of all groups under the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010. Information taught to children must be able to withstand scientific scrutiny and must not be based on ideology. We developed our resource pack out of concern about the existing guidance and in response to the demand from parents and teachers for an alternative resource. It has been widely praised by teachers and parents for being evidence-based, clear and child-centred, and was recommended recently in the Times Educational Supplement as the most consistent with EHRC Technical Guidance for Schools and the only transgender schools guide to be based on safeguarding.
Our work has also been recognised in the field of science. For developing the schools pack our founder was shortlisted for the prestigious John Maddox Prize 2018 which recognises those who promote sound science on matters of public interest, facing difficulty or hostility in doing so.
Transgender Trend has also produced two more resource packs. Safeguarding Concerns highlights areas of concern where political pressure groups are advising schools to act against statutory safeguarding guidance. Our third resource, Children’s Rights Impact Assessment, is a detailed assessment of the Allsorts transgender schools toolkit used throughout England and Wales which contains the same safeguarding failings and factual inaccuracies as the LGBT Youth Scotland guide.
We have written to John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, to request a meeting to discuss some of these common issues of concern about safeguarding, the influence of outside political pressure groups and how the provisions of the Equality Act can best be balanced for all school children.
EHRC national transgender schools guidance
Transgender Trend is a stakeholder in the EHRC consultation on national transgender schools guidance because we asked politely to be included when we saw that a group of transgender organisations had been invited to a roundtable in 2017. We took along parents and professionals to a meeting and submitted written evidence which we asked the EHRC to record and retain. Our submission can be viewed here.
We have also submitted our own schools resources and passed on concerns from parents who contact us. We have been informed that the national guidance is due for publication in September and that an impact assessment and full list of stakeholders consulted will be published at the same time. We have requested that all written submissions from stakeholders are also published. We remain concerned that the most important stakeholders, parents, have not been adequately represented.
We recently wrote again to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ask the following questions:
Following the Scottish example will the EHRC now take similar steps and rethink its transgender guidance for England and Wales? This would be a good opportunity for the EHRC to start again with the national guidance, this time involving and consulting widely with all stakeholders and conducting a rigorous EIA.
And like the Scottish government and the action it took on LGBT Youth, will you take steps to stop the use of the Allsorts toolkit in schools? Our own impact assessment of the Allsorts pack highlighted many of the same concerns that led the Scottish government to take the action it took.
We ask because parents were unaware that the EHRC was consulting on national guidance for schools and we receive an increasing number of queries from parents who are angry that they were not consulted on guidelines which will affect their own children. You may be aware of the UK-wide group Safe Schools Alliance, under the banner of which parents are calling for the withdrawal of transgender guidance, predominantly the Allsorts toolkit which is essentially the same as the LGBT Youth Scotland guidance which the Scottish government is to replace.
We speak on behalf of the parents we represent, who feel there should have been a full and open consultation before national guidelines are drawn up on policy which will affect all schoolchildren in England and Wales. These parents feel very much that their views have not been taken into account and they were given no opportunity to participate as important stakeholders.
Wales – Draft Curriculum 2022 consultation
We have also written to the Welsh government and Children’s Commissioner, and we highlighted the Scottish government’s decision to replace existing transgender guidance in our written submission to the Welsh consultation on the Draft Curriculum for Wales 2022 guidance. We have challenged the teaching of gender identity ideology in the subject areas Science & Technology and Humanities within this draft guidance. Our submission can be seen here.
The consultation is open until July 19th and you can respond here.
Now that Scotland has taken the lead in thinking again about the balance between competing rights in law and the need to protect women and girls, existing schools guidance must also be withdrawn in England and Wales in light of the serious concerns raised, particularly in regard to safeguarding and the rights of girls.
We would like to thank the Scottish government for taking this decision to reflect and reappraise the proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act, a move which has been widely praised by women’s groups and parents across the UK. We welcome the move to reconsider schools guidance which has been prematurely adopted before any legislative changes have been decided. Children should not be test subjects in poorly thought-through policy changes and English and Welsh children deserve the same level of protection as Scottish children. It is now time for England and Wales to follow the lead of Scotland in putting children’s rights first.