Government guidance on teaching relationships, sex and health education should be changed to be “more inclusive” for pupils exploring their gender identity, a school leaders’ union has said.
The current Department for Education (DfE) guidance is presenting “barriers” for schools who want to talk about gender identity with their students, an assistant headteacher suggested.
Andrew Moffat, the personal development lead at Excelsior Multi-Academy Trust and assistant head at Green Meadow Primary School in Birmingham, said trans pupils should be treated “with respect”.
Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in Telford on Saturday, he said: “Let kids be the people they are without shame, judgment or fear.”
A motion, which called for the union to campaign for the DfE guidance to be reworded “to create a more inclusive approach”, particularly for pupils exploring their gender identity, was passed by delegates.
“You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear.”
Ahead of the debate, Mr Moffat told PA news agency that anti-trans groups have been using the DfE guidance to put pressure on schools not to teach about gender identity.
He said he has heard from schools where parents have asked to withdraw their children from lessons on the topic after reading the Government’s guidance on relationships, sex and health education.
During the debate on Saturday, Mr Moffat said it “presents barriers to our inclusive work in schools”.
The DfE guidance adds: “While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.”
Mr Moffat said: “Is that really how we should be treating our trans pupils – with pity and sympathy? We should be calling on teachers to treat trans students with respect.”
Dave Woods, proposer of the motion, said: “This will support leaders up and down the country to deliver what is right, to resist localised opposition from small campaign groups and those that seek to sow divisions in our society.”
The motion said “many primary schools” are not teaching LGBT+ content due to mixed guidance.
Mr Woods added: “This discrimination against LGBT people and curriculum is wrong. It is wrong for pupils, it is wrong for their families, it is wrong for the way in which we should be supporting an inclusive society.”
Clare Rees, a delegate from Greater London, said: “We know that young children are exposed to all kinds of information, including social media, at a very young age.
“So putting in place a carefully thought out and sequenced LGBT+ curriculum that is age-appropriate and is taught with sensitivity by teachers is of vital importance.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “Following reports of inappropriate materials being used to teach relationships and sex education, the Education Secretary has already brought forward an urgent review of the curriculum, which will be informed by an independent panel.
“Separately, we are working on guidance to support schools in relation to children who are questioning their gender. This guidance will clarify schools’ legal position and the importance of involving parents when making any decisions relating to their child.”