Ayrshire Alba has called since April 2022 for the withdrawal of the advice ‘Supporting Transgender Pupils In Schools ‘
This is why.
In the light of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill of 22nd December, the need to withdraw this guidance has acquired new urgency.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: this is not ‘advice’.
This is what the Inspectorate will expect to see when they conduct an Inspection of a school, and woe betide any school which does not follow this ‘guidance’.
Every child, from early Primary to beyond Secondary school, is affected by this Scottish Government document. It seeks to alter the pronouns a teacher must use in class, the way a child asks for help, the safeguarding procedures in schools, lesson planning for teachers, whole-school displays, and whether single-sex toilets can be ‘allowed’.
The guidance was published on the 12th of August 2021, and is still currently in force. Thankfully it seems the majority of teachers are unaware of it: the Covid epidemic, workload and the extra work in recovering from Covid, and now the pay negotiations have constantly shifted the focus away from yet another demand on teachers.
Those schools which have implemented the guidance have mainly avoided scrutiny, or have had very negative publicity from their implementation.
One Highland primary had its ‘Equality and Diversity’ questionnaire leaked:
Now, ask yourself, when you were in primary, were any of these thoughts in your mind? Would your teacher have had to explain the terms to you? How much time would that have taken? Would some role-play have helped you understand?
Now place yourself in a class where the teacher asks you to answer these questions every year, or every term if the school wants to be particularly compliant.
The guidance demands on page 45 that “Transgender identities should be included alongside other identities in classroom/school displays“, so, basically every school day children will be exposed to pro-trans material.
It goes further, suggesting that “The best approach is to ensure transgender identities and experiences are explicit within subject- speciﬁc experiences and outcomes.” Experiences and Outcomes (Es & Os) are a fundamental part of lesson planning in both Primary and Secondary schools, and the Inspectorate will expect to see them evident in every lesson: they will form the basis of praise or criticism (ibid).
What this is calling for is a root-and-branch overhaul of all lesson plans to honour transgender people. One must assume the time for this will be taken away from other teaching and learning tasks – along with the time to explain that others who have made a contribution to their field were not transgender. So a lesson in Computing may divert to talk about the preferences of Alan Turing, or a lesson on programming to talk about Grace Hopper’s married state.
Since recent estimates place transgender people as 0.6% of the population, this seems a disproportionate emphasis of time.
Also disproportionate is the Guidance’s call for normal school Guidance procedures to be turned on their head.
If a child goes to a teacher and confides that their dad hits them, or their mum’s cousin sexually assaults them, teachers are trained to pass the details up the chain. In the most serious cases, the head teacher must inform the Police and Social Work the same day, and the child will be immediately taken into care. At the start of every new school year the staff are drawn together and reminded of this vital responsibility. They are told not to promise to keep the child’s secret, to ask only open questions, not to lead the child even by reacting to parts of the story. Very serious consequences may follow for the child, the teacher, and the school if this advice is ignored.
Under this Guidance, however, this is reversed: “If a young person comes out as transgender there is no immediate need to inform their parents or others.” (p.56). One rule for transgender children, a different rule for everyone else. A serious change to school procedures.
So sole responsibility for handling the case of a gender-confused youngster could be laid on the shoulders of a single teacher, who is forbidden from contacting even the child’s parents at the whim of the individual. (…it is best to not share information with parents or carers without considering and respecting the young person’s views and rights… p. 35).
Parents are very much outsiders in this Guidance: in numerous places they are sidelined, turned into optional participants, or otherwise pushed to the side. Download the document and search for ‘parent’ to see what we mean.
To be clear, it is our firm opinion that both parents and the full support of the school should be extended to any child expressing gender confusion or anxiety: in fact, both of these should be automatically involved as a matter of routine.
Classroom practice will be affected by the call for the use of pronouns as required by the child. Teachers will be expected to call a child by their preferred pronoun. This may appear at first as jarring, but will settle down over time.
The difficulty is if a confused (or mischievous) pupil decides to change again: teachers will be expected to keep track. We’ve heard of children who have switched 10 times in a year, and remember there’s more than one child in a class and no limit to the number of children who may wish to change pronoun.
Operational implications for schools go much further when considering school toilets and changing rooms, and what to do about school trips.
- Girls are losing single-sex toilets, changing rooms and dormitories, even in the final stages of puberty, and beyond.
- Teachers may not inform the parents of girls that a transgender ‘girl’ will be sharing space with them.
- Schools are expected to vet destinations for trans-friendly facilities and policies.
- That would rule out Poland and trips to Auschwitz.
- Competitive sports will have to admit trans athletes, further deterring girls from participation.
- Male-bodied pupils will have access to all-female spaces, since there will not have been time for hormone and surgical procedures to have completed.
All this, and they haven’t even the decency to define ‘transgender’ properly.
Throughout the document the terms ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ are used as if they meant the same thing. They have very different meanings under the law, and have very different protections accordingly. The guidance seeks by conflating the two to extend the rights accorded to transsexuals to transgender people. This is deceptive.
That’s not the only way deception is in play. The use of statistics and figures is highly questionable, as the respected policy analysts Murray Blackburn Mackenzie pointed out in their article from August 2021. Abuses of statistics highlighted include: use of figures direct and unquestioned from lobby groups; misleading layout of infographics; inflated and inaccurate findings from studies; poor methodology in cited studies; ill defined terms in research questionnaires; muddled summaries of research which mixes up demographics.
The SNP Scottish Government seem determined to double down on with a further piece of legislation against ‘conversion therapy’. This would make it illegal for parents to question their child about changing sex. Aidan O’Neill KC wrote about this: in his view the proposals are draconian.
Add on to this that the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act of 23rd April 2021 introduces offences against TransWomen, but not against women, and a pattern starts to emerge. In fact, the word ‘woman’ doesn’t appear in the bill, only as part of ‘Transwoman’.
There is a danger that the tenor of this piece would make it appear that we are against transgender people or gay people. Nothing could be further from the case. We stand foursquare behind the right of gay and transgender people to express themselves in a full life free from discrimination and harm. We also stand absolutely for women’s rights, established after so many years of struggle. What we are against is this poorly drafted and ill-conceived guidance for schools.
There are many groups we believe should have more support and resources devoted to them. Blind children, deaf children, young carers, children whose families can’t afford to feed them.