Parent guide for discussing PSHE resources and transgender inclusion policies with schools

Many schools will engage openly and constructively with parents to discuss PSHE resources and policies.  This approach is supported and encouraged by DfE and is likely to result in the most positive outcomes for children.  DfE guidance on Parental Engagement on Relationships Education  says: “Engagement is a positive step – it helps to ensure that everyone involved understands what is being taught, when and how. It helps develop a shared set of values between parents and schools on these subjects.” 

However, some schools are less willing to genuinely listen to parents.  Many schools are also advised by charities and lobby groups that require full belief in gender ideology; these groups often misrepresent the law and recommend action that would undermine safeguarding policies. This resource is intended to support parents in talking to schools and countering some of the common misunderstandings.  

Ultimately if a school is unable to work cooperatively with parents and to answer questions adequately, parents should follow the process for making a formal complaint to the school.

My Child’s School says…

PSHE / RSE 

We can’t show parents the resources due to copyright. 

DfE guidance on Parental Engagement on Relationships Education says “Ideally, whichever method is used, schools would show parents the resources they will use and set out sequences of teaching.” (p12).   Schools could meet this guideline in a number of ways, whether that is by arranging a group or individual meeting to show resources, making resources available online or by email to parents, or showing resources over Zoom / Teams etc.   

  • Ask the school how they are fulfilling their responsibilities to engage with parents if they are using resources that are withheld from parents.  Do they feel this encourages open and constructive discussion?  How can parents support their children with PSHE topics if they are not allowed to see the content?   
  • Why would a provider tell schools they should withhold information and resources from parents on these sensitive topics?  This does not suggest that the provider understands the pivotal role that parents have in their children’s education and the need for parents and schools to work together.  

In addition, the guidance is clear that schools should introduce new items to the curriculum in consultation with parents: “The broad process for engagement should involve the school providing clear information to all parents, in an accessible way, on their proposed programme and policy; parents being given reasonable time to consider this information; the school providing reasonable opportunities for parents to feed in their views; and the school giving consideration to those views from parents.” 

The Department for Education endorse the resources the school use, so there is no need to worry.

The DfE have stated publicly they do not endorse or check any providers or resources; even where the DfE have featured a provider on their website or Facebook page, this does not indicate endorsement nor that they have checked any resources.  The DfE state clearly that schools are responsible for the use of any providers or resources.   

Safe Schools Alliance have corresponded directly with the DfE in relation to certain providers’ resources.  We have a number of letters and emails from DfE that make it clear that regardless of what the DfE may appear to endorse, they in fact take no responsibility for the use of any materials.  The decision over what to use – and the responsibility for it – lies with the school.  This is also made clear in the DfE’s ‘Education Hub’ blog: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2016/06/22/gender-identity-in-schools/ 


CAMHS have provided the resources the school use, so there is no need to worry.  

The Department for Education state clearly that schools are responsible for the use of any providers or resources (see section on the DfE above).  This is the case regardless of the source of the information.  If a parent makes a formal complaint, it will be the school that have to respond to it.  

The PSHE Association endorse the resources the school use, so there is no need to worry.

The Department for Education state clearly that schools are responsible for the use of any providers or resources (see section on the DfE above).  This is the case regardless of the source of the information.  If a parent makes a formal complaint, it will be the school that have to respond to it.   

Resources endorsed by the PSHE Association have been shown to breach DfE guidance; we would therefore caution that PSHE Association accreditation or endorsement cannot be taken to mean that a resource is legally correct or meets DfE guidelines. 

We have to teach children about gender identity (primary school). 

The DfE’s statutory guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education does not give specific information for primary schools on what to teach about gender identity.  The DfE makes it clear throughout its guidance that this is at schools’ discretion.   

It says that “All pupils should receive teaching on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships during their school years. Secondary schools should include LGBT content in their teaching. Primary schools are strongly encouraged, and enabled, when teaching about different types of family, to include families with same sex parents.”  This suggests that it is not required for primary schools to teach about “transgender relationships” or about “gender identity”. 

The Ofsted guidance on Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools says:  

“Schools are not required to teach about all the protected characteristics in every year group; that is a matter for the school to decide, and how it plans its curriculum. However, the curriculum should be planned and delivered so that children develop age-appropriate knowledge and understanding during their time at the school. In secondary schools, this includes age-appropriate knowledge of the protected characteristics of sexual orientation and gender reassignment.  

There are a range of ways schools can choose to teach about these issues in an age-appropriate way. Primary schools could, for example, teach pupils about the different types of family groups that exist within society. Secondary schools could, for example, teach pupils in more detail about sexuality and gender identity as well as the legal rights afforded to LGBT people. As stated in the DfE’s statutory guidance, teaching on these matters should be integrated appropriately into the curriculum, rather than addressed separately or in one-off lessons.” 

Again, this suggests that it is not required for primary schools to teach about “transgender relationships” or about “gender identity”. 

The DfE guidance, under a section which applies to all schools, says that “Schools should ensure that all of their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content.” 

  • Ask the school why they have decided to teach about gender identity and transgender issues when this is not required by DfE.  On what basis have they decided it is age appropriate? 

Schools should not be teaching the contested idea of “gender identity” as if it were fact: this is made clear in the non-statutory DfE guidance “Plan your relationships, sex and health curriculum” which states that “resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based” and that, when deciding if a resource is suitable, “[schools] should consider if it…is evidence-based and contains robust facts and statistics …[and] is from a credible source”.  

  • Ask the school what is the evidence underpinning their teaching about gender identity and transgender issues.   
  • Ask the school what resources they have used to teach about or explain gender identity.  How do the resources meet the DfE guidelines not to reinforce harmful stereotypes or to suggest children might be a different gender based on their personality, interests or the clothes they prefer to wear? 

The statutory guidance also says that schools must also ensure all resources used are impartial, forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject and ensure a balanced presentation of opposing political views.  Further “[schools] should be aware that the meaning of political issues does not refer solely to the discussion of party politics.  Schools are advised to consider the range of issues on which there could be political views, which may include global affairs, equalities issues, religion and economics. 

  • Ask the school how they are ensuring political impartiality, and that they are not using contested sexist political terms such as ‘cisgender’. 

Safe Schools Alliance have published a summary factsheet on the DfE RSE guidance here.

We have to teach children about gender identity (secondary school). 

The DfE and Ofsted have left schools in a very difficult position by their distinct lack of clarity on what schools are required to teach.  However, ultimately it is schools that are legally responsible for the content, and therefore schools will have to navigate this situation while holding safeguarding above all.  

recent Ofsted research commentary says “Schools’ work on sex and gender stereotypes could also help pupils who do not conform to those stereotypes, including some LGBT pupils. For example, it may contribute to reducing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying if bullying originates from stereotypical notions of boys and girls.”  In most cases, having a strong ethos and policies on sexism, sexual harassment and bullying will reduce stereotype-based incidents.  When gender stereotypes are challenged, it becomes clear that someone’s sex should have no bearing on their choice of clothing, activity or personality.   

In line with this, DfE guidance says: “We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear.  Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. “ 

  • Ask the school what resources they have used to teach about or explain gender identity.  How do the resources meet the DfE guidelines not to reinforce harmful stereotypes or to suggest children might be a different gender based on their personality, interests or the clothes they prefer to wear? 
  • Ask the school what is the evidence underpinning their teaching about gender identity and transgender issues.   

The statutory guidance also says that schools must also ensure all resources used are impartial, forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject and ensure a balanced presentation of opposing political views.  Further “[schools] should be aware that the meaning of political issues does not refer solely to the discussion of party politics.  Schools are advised to consider the range of issues on which there could be political views, which may include global affairs, equalities issues, religion and economics.” 

  • Ask the school how they are ensuring political impartiality, and that they are not using contested sexist political terms such as ‘cisgender’. 

Any teaching about gender identity must include recognition that lack of belief in gender identity and gender ideology is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.   

  • Ask the school how they incorporate the fact that that lack of belief in gender identity and gender ideology is protected under the Equality Act 2010.  How do they make sure that children who do not believe in gender identity feel safe and supported at school? 

In order to give the whole picture and avoid a politically biased viewpoint, schools should also include discussion about detransitioners when teaching about gender identity.  Detransitioners are people who have transitioned, socially and/or medically, and who later decided to stop this transition process.  There are large numbers of detransitioned young people, particularly women, who feel that transitioning was not helpful in alleviating their gender dysphoria.  Many say that they did not receive the counselling and psychological support they needed, but instead were simply affirmed, with transitioning being promoted as a solution instead of other issues and options being explored.  Many detransitioners who transitioned medically regret the permanent physical changes that have been made to their body.  The Detrans Voices and Post Trans  websites have many such stories.  

  • Ask the school how they incorporate discussion of detransitioners into their PSHE and school staff’s understanding about gender identity issues. 
In PSHE we ask/tell children to use people’s preferred pronouns as it would be unkind or transphobic not to.

Using opposite-sex pronouns for trans-identified people is often portrayed as not only harmless and ‘kind’, but required under the Equality Act 2010.  However, any teaching about gender identity must include recognition that lack of belief in gender identity and gender ideology is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.  Not believing in gender identity is equally as acceptable as believing in it.  Requiring adults or children to use opposite-sex pronouns regardless of the circumstances may breach their rights under the Equality Act 2010.   

Framing the use of opposite-sex pronouns as ‘kind’, even if children are told they do not have to use them, is also problematic.  It coerces children into co-operating as most children want to be kind and to fit in socially.  It has a disproportionate effect on girls as they are socialised into following social norms.  Ironically, it is also girls who are most at risk of being harmed by gender identity ideology.  As well as the right of children not to believe in gender identity, there are safeguarding risks in encouraging children to state that males are females.  Being able to name reality is an important part of safeguarding.  Making children feel unsure about whether they are allowed to recognise and describe someone as male or female may make them doubt themselves and their judgements relating to personal safety and security.  It could also lead to children feeling unable to react to or report situations that make them feel uncomfortable.  It is essential that children are not encouraged or coerced to describe males as female.   

Children should also know that they have the legal right to single sex spaces in certain circumstances, regardless of how people may identify.  Attempting to coerce children into believing a highly contested political viewpoint breaches the school’s legal requirement to be politically impartial. 

Furthermore, recent studies have found that socially transitioning a child (changing name and pronouns) does not produce any benefit to the child in terms of psychological functioning.  For more information see our advice note about socially transitioning children at school

Transgender Inclusion Policies

The Equality Act 2010 means we have to let boys change in the girls changing room / use the girls’ toilets, or vice versa 

Exemptions to the Equality Act 2010 allow for the provision of single-sex facilities in order to achieve a legitimate aim. These exemptions apply to scenarios such as changing rooms (EA2010 Schedule 3 part 7) and sleeping arrangements (EA2010 Schedule 23). 

There are solutions which satisfy both the EHRC guidance and the Equality Act exemptions.  A school may provide toilets /changing facilities which are single-sex (separate male and female toilets/changing) and also provide a number of self-contained, floor-to-ceiling, lockable rooms with a toilet, sink and sanitary waste facilities, which can be used by either sex.  This solution achieves the legitimate aim of providing safe, single-sex spaces for female pupils, whilst also not discriminating against trans-identified pupils by insisting they use the facilities which correspond to their biological sex.  Instead, they are able use the self-contained facilities which are open to any pupil of either sex. 
However, fully enclosed toilets of this type create the risk that a pupil may faint or fall without being easily noticed by others. Schools need to consider what steps they will take to reduce this risk.

  • Ask the school to tell you where exactly in the EA2010 it says boys should be allowed to change in the girls changing room / use the girls’ toilets.  Have the school checked in the Act itself or are they using unreliable third parties to tell them what it says?   

Our factsheet on toilet provision regulations provides more detail about the laws in England and Wales.  
For detail specifically on the regulations which apply to Scottish schools, For Women Scotland have a useful factsheet. 

Our policy is required under the Equality Act 2010. 
  • Ask the school to tell you where exactly in the Equality Act 2010 their policy is supported.  Have the school checked in the Act itself or are they using unreliable third parties to tell them what it says?   
  • Has the school carried out an Equality Impact Assessment that considers all relevant groups, including girls, disabled children and religious children?  Although not specifically required as part of an Equality Impact Assessment, schools should also consider girls who have been or are being sexually abused, bearing in mind that most children who have been abused do not disclose at the time and therefore will not be known to the school
We have asked our lawyers and they say the policy meets legal requirements. 

Ask the school how the policy is in line with the Equality Act 2010, Working Together to Safeguard Children, and the Equality Act 2010.  If the policy is a Transgender Inclusion Policy that is similar to the Oxford ‘Trans Inclusion Toolkit’ that was withdrawn following legal action, ask the school if they are confident their lawyers would be able to defend their policy in the event of similar legal action. 

We have to have an inclusive space for all children. 

Ask the school to explain how their policies create an inclusive space for:  

We have a student LGBT/LGBTQ+ group to support children in school.

Children who are questioning their sexuality may benefit from an LGB support group.  However, schools should be aware that any group specifically set up to provide support on issues around sexuality is likely to be targeted by those who seek to groom and abuse children.  Some children may have been groomed or exposed to inappropriate content online, and may have absorbed very harmful messages that are then shared with other children in the group.  This may occur between children of the same age, or when children are grouped across a wider age range.  All adults involved must be aware of these risks and have procedures in place to mitigate them. 

A student support group for children who are questioning their ‘gender identity’ has a considerable number of additional safeguarding risks.   

Children with gender dysphoria have clinically significant distress.  Children who are experiencing this level of mental distress should not be expected to be ‘supported’ by other children, particularly those who may themselves be experiencing significant distress.  It is an abject failure of safeguarding to expect clinically distressed children to provide support to other clinically distressed children; at the very least, any such support group would need to be closely supervised in a clinical setting, circumstances which clearly are not possible in a school. 

In addition to the distress of gender dysphoria, children who are trans-identified are disproportionately likely to have undiagnosed autism, to have suffered sexual abuse or trauma, or have comorbid mental health issues.  Again, children experiencing these issues cannot be expected to support each other outside of a closely supervised clinical setting.   

It is likely that children in an LGBT support group will encourage each other to socially transition.  There is no long-term evidence base to support the affirmative approach to gender, and social affirmation can lead to a gender identity becoming embedded, which in turn increases the risk that the young person will seek to medically transition in future.  Schools must not create situations in which children are facilitated to encourage social transition.   

  • How will the school ensure that children do not encourage each other to socially transition? 
  • How will the school oversee children’s interactions online with groups that encourage transitioning, often by romanticising the idea of a ‘true self’ that will be publicly ‘celebrated’ once a child has transitioned? 
  • How will the school oversee children’s interactions online with groups that view any questioning of gender ideology as ‘transphobic’ and encourage children to separate from their parents unless they are immediately affirmed? 
  • How will the school oversee children’s interactions online with groups that promote adult involvement with children’s emerging sexualities? 
Children will self-harm or take their own lives if we don’t use this policy.

Any concerns about individual children self-harming or having suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously and dealt with under the normal school safeguarding policies; children who are trans-identified must not be given less protection than other children. 

Statements or assertions linking suicide or suicidal thoughts to a single issue are irresponsible.  Suicide is complex and most of the time there is no single reason or event which causes suicidal thoughts.  Using suicide statistics to justify a course of action is extremely ill advised.  It is also very dangerous to suggest to children that they may be more likely to self-harm or take their own lives if they are trans-identified.   

Many of the quoted statistics about suicide and self-harm are misleading and extrapolated from very small numbers.  The Gender Identity Development Services says that: “The majority of the children and young people we see do not self-harm, nor do they make attempts to end their own life. Although there is a higher rate of self-harm in the young people who are seen at GIDS compared to all teenagers, it is a similar rate to that seen in local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Transgender Trend has published a useful article debunking the trans suicide stats that are often used by lobby groups.  

We have checked our policies with Stonewall. 

The DfE state clearly that schools are responsible for the use of any providers or resources (see the response on the Department for Education above).  Schools are liable for any resources or providers they use, regardless of the source of the information.   

Safe Schools Alliance have significant concerns about schools using resources from Stonewall.

There’s no need to change our use of ‘gender’ instead of ‘sex’ in our school equalities action plan; everyone knows what it means. 

Policies that relate to the law should use terms that are understood in law.  There are 9 protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.  “Gender” is not a protected characteristic and has no legal definition.   

Although the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ have been used interchangeably in recent history, changing political circumstances have made it necessary to draw a distinction between the two – particularly where legislation and policies are concerned.  ‘Sex’ refers to the biological, reproductive classification of people as either male or female.  ‘Gender’ until recently was used to refer to the social expectations, roles or stereotypes of each of the sexes.  However, ‘gender’ is now used in many ways: as a biological term, as a term about an internal sense of identity, or as a term referring to social norms and stereotypes.  When these are conflated, such as by conflating biology and identity, it becomes very difficult to talk about girls’ sex-based rights. 

Gender identity is a belief system – an ideology – with implications for women’s and children’s rights.  ‘Gender’ cannot be used to replace ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic; this would leave the school open to legal challenge on how they are taking account of sex as a protected characteristic. 

Gender identity is a protected characteristic. 

“Gender identity” is not a protected characteristic and has no meaning in law.  Gender identity is a concept in which some people believe but many do not.  The relevant protected characteristics are sex, and gender reassignment. 

Under the school policy, children are not allowed to say they don’t believe in gender identity; this would be transphobic. 

Lack of belief in gender identity and gender ideology is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010.  Bullying is not acceptable for anyone; but it is not transphobic or hateful to disagree with gender identity or gender ideology.  It is not transphobic to state a belief that people cannot change sex or that women and girls have a legal right to single-sex spaces. 

Society accepts that while people may believe in different religions, no-one is required to say that they believe in any particular religion or religious belief.  Similarly, while some people may believe in gender ideology and gender identity, no-one can be required to say that they believe in it or agree with it.  Attempting to coerce children into believing a highly contested political viewpoint breaches the school’s legal requirement to be politically impartial. Schools’ resources should be written with this in mind.

The NEU / NASUWT / NAHT / other union endorse the policy. 

Union guidance or advice does not trump the law or safeguarding frameworks.  Many unions have been advised by lobby groups who do not understand the law or safeguarding. There are no exceptions where safeguarding is concerned; individual adults, schools, teaching unions or lobby groups do not know better.  Schools are legally responsible for their actions and the resources they choose to use, and cannot pass responsibility onto any other organisation.    

We don’t get involved, we just signpost parents to support groups. 

The majority of charities that profess to support LGBT children and young people follow gender identity ideology and promote social and medical transition.  This is not in the best interests of children and young people; it is also a political position.  Schools must consider the best interests of children and must also be politically impartial. 

If schools wish to signpost parents to support groups in their resources, there are a number of groups that support parents and young people without promoting gender identity ideology. These include Bayswater SupportOur Duty, Detrans VoicesGenspect and Positively Lesbian.

  • Ask the school to explain how they have checked that the groups they signpost to meet safeguarding guidelines 
  • Do groups that the school signpost to encourage/celebrate transitioning? 
  • Do groups that the school signpost to view any questioning of gender ideology as ‘transphobic’ and encourage children to separate from their parents unless they are immediately affirmed? 
  • Do groups that the school signpost to use false suicide statistics, or use emotional blackmail to force parents to accept transitioning? 
  • Do groups that the school signpost to encourage removing or subverting the right to single-sex spaces? 

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