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Speak to a trained member of the Mermaids team. 08088010400

We know that many of you may be feeling anxious or upset by the UK Government’s absurd draft schools’ guidance published this week.

You are not alone in this feeling, and we want to reassure and remind you:

The guidance is only a draft and will be out for consultation until March 2024

In the New Year, we will do everything in our power to make sure any final guidance is supportive of trans children and young people. We’ll also share with you ways that you can get involved in making change. All trans students deserve to be accepted and supported; we will never stop working towards this.

Teachers and schools can disregard the draft guidance

The guidance is in draft and open for change through the consultation process, meaning schools and colleges do not need to pre-emptively apply it.

We have spoken to many teachers who will be paying the draft guidance no attention, and will continue to support their trans students in every way possible. 

There are so many educators who care about having robust guidance that supports their trans students and a lot of great resources that supportive teachers and schools can draw on, including Brighton and Hove’s Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit, the Scottish Government’s Transgender Schools Guidance, NSPCC’s Safeguarding LGBTQ+ children and young people page, and Good Law Project’s Legal Advice.

Remember, we’re in your corner

If you need support, we are here for you on 0808 801 0400 and via email and webchat, 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday. 

Note that our helpline will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The helpline will be open from 9.30am-4.30pm on 27-29 December, and on New Year’s Day.

If you are in need of support outside of our opening hours this festive period, please consider contacting one of the following helplines:

Samaritans: 116 123

Childline: 0800 1111 – Childline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 18 and under.

Switchboard LGBT+: 0800 0119 100. A safe space for anyone to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health and emotional well-being. Open 10am – 10pm every day, 365 days a year.

Look after yourselves this festive season. If the news is feeling too much, take a screen break and try to do something that makes you feel good. We love a hot drink and a winter walk to clear our heads. 

In the New Year, we will make change together. But for now, remember that there are thousands of allies out there who have your back. In fact, they have been sending us dozens of messages of support for you:

“Do not ever give up on yourself. Only you know what is best for your mind, body and soul and as many barriers that are put in front of you, you have to believe that you have the strength to smash through them all.”

“There is already far more acceptance and love out there than the media would suggest – that acceptance and love will grow. Never give up hope. Stay strong.”

“Being trans should be a life worth celebrating.”

“You were born to be you. You have the right to live your life, and you will get there.”

“You are absolutely valid, loved and valued for being you. Keep being yourself, never compromise your own identity to keep others happy. You are enough!”

“This world is a better place with you in it and you are not alone.”

“Be you, be the best you that you can be, however you choose to do it. Love yourself as you are.”

“Stay strong and be true to yourself. Even if a lot of us can’t be seen, we stand behind you in support.”

All young people deserve an accepting and supportive school environment to learn and be their authentic selves.

The UK Government’s draft trans guidance for schools in England seeks to prevent that. Its approach is unworkable, out of touch and absurd. 

Rather than listening to trans young people and reflecting best practice of inclusive educators across the UK, the Government has created more confusion for schools and is putting young people at risk.

It is difficult to understand how aspects of this draft guidance, including automatically excluding trans pupils from facilities, sport bans or allowing students to be misgendered are compatible with existing equalities law. 

The overwhelming majority of teachers and parents believe trans pupils should be safe at school and will disregard these discriminatory guidelines, which will be non-compulsory.

We will be sharing further analysis and a guide on responding to the consultation in the New Year. 

In the meantime, take action now and ask your MP to speak out against this proposed guidance and support our campaign to create safe, supportive schools for all. 

If you need support, please contact our helpline on 0808 801 0400.

Today (10 August 2022), Suella Braverman QC MP, the Attorney General, made a speech for the Policy Exchange think tank on the affirmation of trans, non-binary and gender diverse children in school.

The contents of Braverman’s speech do not reflect our understanding of the Equality Act 2010 or the realities of being a trans child in schools. Her speech is not legally binding on schools and does not mark a change in school’s duties toward trans children in their care. 

What does the Equality Act say?

Under the Equality Act 2010, people with the characteristic of “gender reassignment” are protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. This captures anyone who is trans, regardless of medical intervention.

Schools may also be subject to a Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010, which requires them to advance equality of opportunity, foster good relations and have due regard to the need to minimise disadvantages suffered by persons who share a relevant protected characteristic.

As we understand it, this means that it is contrary to the Equality Act if schools refuse to allow a child to wear the uniform that matches their gender identity or use a single-sex facility that matches their gender identity.

There is a high bar for the exclusion of trans children from sports where their inclusion may undermine safety or fairness. We believe that access to sport is a fundamental part of childhood, teaching young people important life lessons about teamwork, navigating new environments, building confidence and making friends, and has numerous physical and emotional benefits that make us who we are. To exclude trans, non-binary and gender-diverse young people from such experiences is to deny them a childhood. 

The benefits of inclusion

Using the correct pronouns (e.g. he, she, they) of a child can be an important and simple way to create an inclusive, respectful school environment. Studies show the real impact this can have on a trans or gender-diverse person, including, for example, a 71% reduction of symptoms of depression (Russell et al, Journal of Adolescent Health 63 (2018): “Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth”).

A child being trans does not make them a safeguarding risk to other children and affirming and supporting trans children does not hurt other children in their peer group. Furthermore, the Equality Act makes clear that medical intervention or diagnosis is not required for a child to use the name or pronouns of their choice.

Our view

We do not believe that providing a supportive and inclusive environment disadvantages anyone. Trans rights are not to the exclusion of others’ rights but in addition to the benefits and freedoms enjoyed by the majority.

Education is a fundamental human right and trans children need support and protection to ensure the same standard of education as everyone else, rather than additional barriers proposed by some. We urge schools to be agile and supportive and take extra measures to ensure that trans children can enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else. 

If something happens at your school and you need support, contact [email protected]. We also work with schools to help them strive to be as inclusive as possible. If you’re interested in speaking to our training team, please email [email protected].