The Girl’s Day School Trust (GDST), which represents 25 institutions, updated the new policy last month and advised its members, parents and trustees following the decision. In a new section on admissions, the GDST said its schools do not accept applications from pupils who are legally biologically male, even if they identify as women. They said that having a policy on “gender identity” rather than the sex recorded on a pupil’s birth certificate would “jeopardise the status of GDST schools as single-sex schools” under the 2010 Equality Act.
However, a female pupil who begins to transition while already at one of the GDST’s schools should be supported to remain there for as long as they want to, the document adds.
The GDST, which counts institutions including Greater London’s 137-year-old Sutton High School among its members, said the guidance was drawn up “in collaboration with experts, teachers and students”.
However, the teaching union, the Association of School of College Leaders (ASCL), which represents headteachers, last night called on the Government to issue clearer guidance for schools for what to do when a pupil says they are transgender.
Julie McCulloch of the ASCL told The Telegraph that as more children “come out” as transgender, headteachers are forced to intervene in the controversial debate about sex and gender.
She said: “It is a really big issue and the lack of formal guidance for schools is something that we are concerned about.”
School leaders have said that, without national guidance on transgender issues, schools are left relying on lobby groups.
According to reports, as many as 50 children a week are being referred to the UK’s leading gender identity clinic.
Official figures from the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Centre in London show that 2,016 children were referred to them in 2016-17.
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But The Mirror says it has seen data that shows 1,302 children have visited GIDS in the last six months – which works out at about 50 children a week.
Children who are referred to gender identity clinics like the GIDS at the Tavistock Centre are often diagnosed with “gender dysphoria”.
The NHS describes the condition as one where “a person experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity”.
With the issue surrounding transgender children in schools, the GDST’s guidance was reportedly first published in 2016 but was updated and shared with member schools early in December last year.
The body’s fears are centred around the fact that it is only able to operate a single-sex admissions policy without breaching the Equality Act because of an exemption related to biological sex.
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The guidance states: “The GDST believes that an admissions policy based on gender identity rather than the legal sex recorded on a student’s birth certificate would jeopardise the status of GDST schools as single-sex schools under the act.”
It adds: “For this reason, GDST schools do not accept applications from students who are legally male.”
Speaking of the ongoing situation, the report says: “We will, however, continue to monitor the legal interpretation of this exemption.”
Single-sex schools face a dilemma over what to do if a pupil applies on the basis of their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
Ms McCulloch said this is a “very difficult area” for a headteacher to deal with.
A report published by the Government in 2020 says: “In England, Wales and Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against transgender children in all schools.”
It added: “The UK Department for Education (DfE) guidance on the Act says protections apply to those who are undergoing, have undergone, or are proposing to undergo, a process (or part of a process) of reassigning their sex by changing physiological or other attributes.”