Do you have any religious or political affiliation?
No. We are a grassroots group of individual volunteers from a range of backgrounds. We receive no funding or donations. We are united by an interest in child welfare.
What are you worried about?
We are concerned that schools are being advised to use policies regarding gender identity that are based on misleading or inaccurate information.
We fear that many of these policies have not been subject to proper impact assessment and may cause conflict between protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. For example, although Equality Act exemptions allow for single-sex provision to achieve a legitimate aim (such as keeping female students safe in light of alarming sexual harassment statistics reported in the recent NEU & UK Feminista’s study on sexism in schools), trans lobby groups push policies which allow males into female spaces, including in schools.
We are also deeply troubled that these policies often contradict safeguarding legislation and good practice. For example, some lobby groups advise that a child’s trans status must be subject to absolute confidentiality — including not informing parents. This directly contradicts basic information-sharing safeguarding principles.
We also fiercely object to training offered to schools by lobby groups which asserts that certain personality traits, characteristics, interests or hobbies are typical of girls whilst others are typical of boys. This is sexism. Such training dictates that children who conform to these gender stereotypes are to be labeled ‘cis’, whilst children who do not conform are labelled ‘trans’ and should ‘transition’ in order to meet societal expectations. This reinforcement of sexist gender stereotypes is regressive, restrictive, and severely limits the opportunities for children to develop into well-rounded, balanced and diverse individuals.
We also feel that lobby groups perpetuate heterosexual gender stereotypes to the extent that young people are led to believe that same-sex attraction is indicative of being transgender. As whistleblowing clinicians from the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) said, ‘it feels like conversion therapy for gay children’. This observation, made by medical professionals with first-hand experience of treatment within a gender identity clinic, is alarming. We reject the homophobic notion that children who are perceived to be heterosexual are ‘cis’ and, by extension, that children who are perceived to be homosexual are ‘trans’.
Safe Schools Alliance are deeply concerned that many organisations, including political parties and charities (such as the NSPCC) are failing to use Safer Recruitment processes and therefore risk allowing unsuitable or dangerous individuals to make decisions and influence policy regarding children and education. All schools, academies and organisations who work either directly or indirectly with children must use Safer Recruitment processes.
What does the equality act say?
There are nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of these characteristics.
- sexual orientation
- religion or belief
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
Safe Schools Alliance feel that changing political agendas risk certain protected characteristics being unlawfully prioritised over others. Equality legislation exists for a reason and it is important that it is upheld.
What does safeguarding legislation say?
Statutory safeguarding guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 states:
‘Everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.
Effective sharing of information between practitioners and local organisations and agencies is essential for early identification of need, assessment and service provision to keep children safe. Serious case reviews (SCRs13) have highlighted that missed opportunities to record, understand the significance of and share information in a timely manner can have severe consequences for the safety and welfare of children.
Practitioners should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children, whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to local authority children’s social care (e.g. they are being supported as a child in need or have a child protection plan). Practitioners should be alert to sharing important information about any adults with whom that child has contact, which may impact the child’s safety or welfare.
Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour when a child has gone missing, when multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk, or in relation to children in the secure estate where there may be multiple local authorities involved in a child’s care. It will be for local safeguarding partners to consider how they will build positive relationships with other local areas to ensure that relevant information is shared in a timely and proportionate way.
Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare, and protect the safety, of children, which must always be the paramount concern’.
Advice from lobby groups regarding keeping a child’s transgender identity confidential from parents, family and other agencies directly contradicts safeguarding guidance on information sharing.
Furthermore, NSPCC information about grooming warns that:
‘The relationship a groomer builds can take different forms. This could be a romantic relationship; as a mentor; an authority figure; [or] a dominant and persistent figure. Whether online or in person, groomers can use tactics like: pretending to be younger; giving advice or showing understanding; buying gifts; giving attention; [or] taking them on trips, outings or holidays.
Groomers might also try and isolate children from their friends and family, making them feel dependent on them and giving the groomer power and control over them. They might use blackmail to make a child feel guilt and shame or introduce the idea of ‘secrets’ to control, frighten and intimidate.
It’s important to remember that children and young people may not understand they’ve been groomed. They may have complicated feelings, like loyalty, admiration, love, as well as fear, distress and confusion’.
We are concerned that, with many gender nonconforming children seeking advice from online communities, they may be susceptible to being peer pressured into social and/or medical transition. We are also concerned that adults may exploit these largely unmonitored and unregulated online support networks to groom vulnerable children under the guise of ‘mentoring’, ‘understanding’ or ‘advice’. It is troubling that online trans communities — such as those on Tumblr — seem to normalise the idea of secrecy and foster mistrust in parents, teachers and other authorities who do not unquestioningly ‘affirm’ a child’s transgender identity.
What are your aims?
We urge schools and other education providers to immediately review their policies to:
- ensure that ‘sex’ is listed as a protected characteristic rather than the erroneous ‘gender’
- provide clear definitions of each protected characteristic — in particular, the definition of ‘sex’ as the biological reproductive classification of humans as ‘male’ and ‘female’; and the definition of homosexuality as ‘same-sex attraction’;
- ensure that the rights of all protected characteristics are upheld and that conflict between different groups is considered in thorough impact assessments;
- ensure that statutory safeguarding guidance is upheld consistently and objectively across all protected characteristics;
- ensure that policy and teaching on gender identity does not reinforce sexist stereotypes or promote/encourage any particular ideology;
- ensure that parents are notified when single-sex provision will not be available (whilst respecting any transgender individual’s right to anonymity) so that they are able to give informed consent;
- ensure that thorough background checks are made on external organisations who provide schools with training/resources and that these meet safeguarding standards;
- account for the vulnerability of children to peer pressure & social contagion;
- highlight the dangers of gender nonconforming children seeking medical & psychological advice & support from unregulated, unqualified online sources which may include unknown adults;
- highlight the dangers of taking medication which has been obtained online without a prescription from a reputable, registered doctor or being coached for medical appointments in order to deliberately obtain a specific diagnosis/prescription;
- highlight the dangers of breast binding;
- highlight the side effects and irreversibility of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapy;
- highlight that an increasing number of young people ‘detransition’ or ‘desist’ and ensure that the experiences of detransitioners are communicated to pupils for balance;
- note that children who present as trans are more likely to have additional vulnerabilities, such as ASD, or suffering trauma, abuse, or other significant change prompting psychological distress;
- reflect that same-sex attraction is not indicative of ‘gender identity’ and that conflation of the two is homophobic.