Creating a Trans Inclusive Environment in Primary Schools

Consult with Pupils. Whilst there are a number of general policy changes that you can make to ensure that your school is trans inclusive, in the finer details, trans inclusion should be young-person-centred, young-person-led, and dealt with point by point. Consult with the young person—as well as with their parents and carers (provided you have the young person’s consent)—wherever possible. What aspects of school give them cause for concern? Do current provisions alleviate any anxieties they may have? What could be done differently?

Get Policies Right. Make sure your policies and procedures are trans inclusive. Policies such as your Equality and Diversity Policy; Anti-Bullying Policy; Safeguarding Policy; PE Policy; School Trips, Visits and Residential Policies; and PSHE and Relationships and Sex Education Policies should all make specific reference to transgender issues and set out the schools’ intent to support trans and gender questioning pupils and prevent and tackle transphobic bullying.

Respond to Transphobic Incidents. Anti-bullying policies and procedures on how to recognise, respond and record prejudice-related incidents rarely give specific mention to transphobia – make sure your policies and procedures include transphobia and transphobic policies and outline your schools’ commitment to preventing transphobia and the steps it will take if an incident of transphobia occurs. For more information about how to recognise and respond to prejudice-related include, please see EqualiTeach’s guide ‘Equally Safe’: https://www.equaliteach.co.uk/our-work/#Resources

Rethink Gender Segregation. Schools should avoid unjustified instances of gender segregation. Aside from the anxieties this style of division can provoke in young trans pupils who have not come out to their school community, this style of division is the exact opposite of teaching young people that boys and girls have more in common than what separates them. Unnecessary gender segregation sows the seeds for sexist and anti-LGBT attitudes to flourish and serves to justify gender stereotypes that pressure young boys and girls to behave, learn, dress and play differently. When gender segregation cannot be avoided, trans young people must be allowed to join the group that corresponds to their gender identity.

Toilets. The trans advocate charity Mermaids report that many trans students find using toilet facilities at school a difficult situation to navigate. An ideal, permanent solution for any school would be to introduce gender-neutral toilet cubicles. Gender-neutral toilet facilities can be used by all—they allow for genuine inclusion without spotlighting or stigmatising trans students. If such facilities cannot be introduced to your school, consult with your trans young people about a suitable way forward. Perhaps a toilet monitor initiative could be put in place at your school, so that all pupils (trans or otherwise) can feel safe from prejudicial comments; or maybe trans pupils would appreciate being able to use staff bathrooms. Remember, however, that no pupil should be required to use alternative provisions; this would constitute direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Changing Facilities. Like toilet facilities, changing rooms can also pose a cause for concern for trans young people. Schools should work with trans pupils individually to find solutions that maximise social integration and trans pupils’ ability to participate in P.E. on the one hand and minimise stigmatisation on the other. All pupils (trans or otherwise) should know that alternative provisions for changing can be made available to them. Either a separate area (an office, a disabled toilet, etc.) or a separate changing time should be readily available to pupils that have need of it. Again, remember that no pupil should be required to use an alternative facility.

Staff Training. School staff need to be provided with training which will develop confidence in understanding gender and trans presentation, terminology and vocabulary e.g. correct use of pronouns and names, and in challenging gender stereotypes, sexism and transphobia.

Inclusive Language. Encouraging staff to reflect on their everyday language when talking to and teaching pupils is a simple step that can help prevent sexist, homophobic or transphobic stereotypes from being promoted. Just as staff should strive to avoid using gendered terms of endearment such as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘good man’, staff should also seek to avoid using language that only acknowledges ‘girls and boys’, as this style of speaking wholly excludes non-binary young people, teachers, parents, governors and other members of the school community. ‘Everyone, ‘year 6’, or ‘class’ can easily replace ‘boys and girls’ as a term of address.

Celebrate Diversity. Make sure that your school’s curriculum is being used to consistently challenge stereotypes of all stripes. Connect any trans-inclusive initiatives to your school’s broader responsibility to safeguard all young people. Leicestershire County Council stress that ‘Trans identities and awareness should be taught within a curriculum where all protected characteristics are celebrated. If [trans identities] are taught as one-off lessons the school runs the risk of isolating trans identities from equality as a whole’ (see further reading).

Uniform. For a young trans person, an important part of socially transitioning may be the decision to start wearing clothes associated with their gender identity. By ensuring that your approved uniform list is broad and angled towards gender neutrality, and by making sure that all pupils know that no-one is limited to wearing certain uniform items, you will allow for trans pupils to transition socially within a regulated structure.

Posters. Visibility can play a huge role in promoting equality in a school. The LGBT charities Stonewall and The Proud Trust (www.theproudtrust.org) both provide posters on their websites featuring information about being gay, bisexual or trans—Stonewall also offer the famous ‘Get Over It!’ posters and visual resources that specifically target the still all-too-common phrase ‘that’s so gay’ (www.stonewall.org.uk). Educate and Celebrate offer wonderful primary-specific posters (www.educateandcelebrate.org), and LGBT History Month’s website provides posters of prominent LGBT historical figures, one for each school subject! (www.lgbthistorymonth.org) These types of visual resources can help signpost young people (trans or otherwise) to further information about what it means to be trans in particular and LGBT in general.

Mark Celebratory and Commemorative Events. Mark important events, such as LGBT History Month and Transgender Day of Remembrance, in order to highlight the important contributions of past and present LGBT people and the plight of transgender people in the fight for equal rights.

Community Communication. Make sure that the wider school community is aware of your schools’ equality work and that parents/carers or other community members can direct questions to a member of the staff team. Be ready to share plans or resources with parents/carers. Where necessary be clear with parents/carers that initiatives are framed as responses to the school’s legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 - trans equality is on an equal footing with gender equality, religious equality, and race equality; it is not an optional add-on.

Further Resources:

Mermaids and East Sussex County Council published a comprehensive guide to trans-inclusion in 2014. The guide focuses on secondary schools, but much of what is talked about is important for primary school practitioners also. Many of the above points are derived from Mermaids’ advice. The guide can be found here: https://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/assets/media/East%20Sussex%20schools%20transgender%20toolkit.pdf

Leicestershire County Council, Leicester City Council, and the Transgender Centre of Excellence have published a similar, more recent report. It is available through Beyond Bullying’s website: http://www.beyondbullying.com/news/2018/02/trans-inclusion-toolkit-for-schools

All Sorts Youth Project published an up-to-date trans inclusion toolkit in October 2018. This toolkit is an updated version of the Mermaids 2014 guide. It is available here: http://www.allsortsyouth.org.uk/resources/toolkits-booklets-guides

Finally, Stonewall host a wealth of resources on their website, such as their yearly ‘school reports’ and their LGBT-inclusion best practice guide for primary schools. Information about Stonewall courses, at least one of which focuses on creating a trans-inclusive school environment, is also available on Stonewall’s website: www.stonewall.org.uk

Brighton and Hove City Council and All Sorts Youth Project have produced a Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit, looking at how to support trans, non-binary and gender questioning children and young people in educational settings: https://www.theproudtrust.org/resources/research-and-guidance-by-other-organisations/trans-inclusion-schools-toolkit/