A trans inclusive school

Written by: Emma Starkey | Published:
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How can schools ensure that they are meeting their legal and moral obligations to be a trans inclusive school? Stonewall’s Emma Starkey offers her advice and signposts useful resources

Stonewall’s School Report 2017 shows a decrease in homophobic and biphobic bullying and language since 2012, but 46 per cent of LGBT young people tell us that they are hearing transphobic language “frequently” or “often”.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of LGBT young people are still bullied for being LGBT at school. LGBT young people continue to experience unacceptably high levels of poor mental health, and for trans pupils in particular the findings of the School Report 2017 are alarming – nearly two in three trans pupils are bullied for being LGBT at school and one in 10 have received death threats.

The research shows that 22 per cent of LGBT young people aged 11 to 18 have tried to take their own life at some point – this rises to 45 per cent of trans young people.

While a growing number of schools are supporting their trans pupils, too many are not equipped to do so.

The responses from trans young people to our survey reveal a worrying picture of what life can be like for them. One in three (33 per cent) are not able to be known by their preferred name at school, while three in five (58 per cent) are not allowed to use the toilets they feel comfortable in. These very basic aspects of life can easily be taken for granted and schools must be confident in their legal obligations to trans young people, and be equipped to take their trans identity seriously.

For teachers working with trans young people it is essential to understand that a trans young person is protected by law from the moment they disclose their trans identity, regardless of whether they pursue any medical interventions. This means that trans young people have the legal right to be known by their preferred name and use the facilities that match their gender identity from the moment that they disclose their trans identity or discuss with a member of staff that they are questioning their gender.

The School Report 2017 reveals that one in four trans pupils are bullied in changing rooms and one in five trans pupils are bullied in their school toilets. Trans students have the legal right to use the toilet and changing facilities that match their self-identified gender. Yet the statistics above demonstrate the need for teachers to understand these rights of access to these most basic of facilities. They also show the need for non-trans pupils to better understand and respect trans identities and the rights of trans young people.

The School Report 2017 also found that three in four LGBT pupils (77 per cent) have never learnt about gender identity and what “trans” means at school, and that more than two in five trans pupils (44 per cent) say that staff at their school are not familiar with the term and what it means. This demonstrates not necessarily a lack of interest or willingness on the part of the school and their teachers, but a lack of expertise and knowledge around these issues.

Training

So, where does this leave you and your school? What can you do? As with any area of education, excellent practice can only exist when staff have been equipped with the skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver it. Understanding trans identities and issues relating to gender identity should be a whole-school approach and a commitment to whole-school training would be a great place to start.

The most recent Stonewall course, Creating a Trans Inclusive School, follows a “train the trainer” model, requiring only one member of a school staff team to attend training. The course is designed to equip teachers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to not only build a trans inclusive school but also to train and empower their colleagues.

The course provides insight into the experiences of trans young people in schools and provides time to discuss terminology, case studies, the law and Ofsted requirements as they relate to trans young people in schools.

Some top tips

Here are some top tips to make your school more trans inclusive:

  • Work with the LGBT young people in your school. Listen to them and be led by them as far as possible.
  • Celebrate difference through special events such as LGBT History Month in February. Make sure you highlight trans people and issues relating specifically to the trans community during this month.
  • Use Stonewall’s huge bank of resources. They are available free of charge on our website and can be downloaded.
  • Display posters such as those made for the Trans Day of Visibility to improve the visibility of trans people in your school.
  • Create an equality group to run your assemblies on LGBT History Month.
  • Review your school’s policies, do they cover transphobia and transphobic bullying as a specific issue and state that instances will not be tolerated? Your anti-bullying policy could give examples of transphobic language so staff and students better understand.
  • Make your policies explicit about following the Equality Act 2010 and include this in your home-school agreement so that parents are aware of how you support all pupils in your school.
  • Create a checklist for staff to follow should a student disclose to them that they are trans or questioning their gender. This could include such things as asking how the student would like to be referred to (name and pronoun) and whether the student feels they need any additional support.
  • Invite a trans speakers in to your school. Joining the Stonewall School Champion programme will give you access to trained LGBT speakers and you can request a trans speaker if you wish.
  • Review your curriculum and identify where trans people and their experiences could be included. Ideally this should go beyond PSHE and RSE curricula, as great opportunities to discuss and explore trans issues could come in English, art or drama.
  • Make information on trans issues easily available to students by creating a trans specific section on your LGBT notice board. Signpost to local and national trans youth services such as Mermaids and Gendered Intelligence.


  • Emma Starkey is education programmes officer at Stonewall. She has a background in secondary education holding both teaching and learning and pastoral responsibilities before joining Stonewall.

Further information


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