Transgender guidelines for girls schools quietly scrapped by the equalities watchdog

·2-min read
Girls in school uniform playing netball in the school yard - Getty
Girls in school uniform playing netball in the school yard - Getty

National transgender guidelines that would have forced girls schools to admit trans pupils have been quietly scrapped by the equalities watchdog, amid fierce opposition from feminists, The Telegraph can reveal.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission was set to publish guidelines to help schools navigate the fraught debate between biological sex and gender under the 2010 Equality Act.

Teachers across England, Scotland and Wales were expecting them soon, following three years of delays stretching back to 2018.

A draft copy of the guidelines, first reported by this newspaper, said excluding male pupils from girls schools with an admissions policy based on sex at birth would be “indirectly discriminatory”.

A girl who formally transitions to boy must be allowed to stay at the girls school, or this would be "direct gender reassignment discrimination", it added.

Schools were told to install gender-neutral lavatories and changing rooms where possible, including on residential trips, or let pupils use the facility that fits their gender identity.

In PE, a boy who feels they are a girl could not be excluded from girls sports lessons. Teachers were warned refusal to call trans pupils by their new names and pronouns could break the law.

Parents and academics said the plans showed “what a mess we create when we conflate sex and gender” and eroded biological sex. Now, they have been ditched.

An EHRC spokesman said: "Considering the lack of definitive case law, it has become clear that publishing our guidance may not provide schools with the clarity we hoped.

"This would not be in the best interests of young people, including trans pupils. We have therefore decided not to publish our guidance."

With schools seeking clarity, local authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service have produced their own trans guides over the past year, each backing the rollout of gender-neutral facilities.

But the CPS and Oxfordshire County Council withdrew their guides after two teenage girls alleged privacy violations at the High Court. Other councils have since pulled theirs.

It prompted campaign groups Sex Matters and Transgender Trend to write their own guidance for schools, stressing "it is not 'transphobic' to recognise that everyone has a sex, and to have sex-based rules where justified."

Despite fears of parents suing, some elite single-sex schools say they are considering trans pupils on a case-by-case basis, a move welcomed by trans rights charities.

Mark Lehain, a headteacher until 2017 and now director of the Campaign for Common Sense, said heads were “trying to mediate between what a student wants or their family wants, where the law is and where guidance is”.

“It is not always clear what the right thing to do is,” he said. “These are quite emotive issues, very sensitive issues and they are very important.”

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