There have been a number of misleading stories in the media recently about how schools address issues relating to gender identity and gender reassignment, and the Government’s role in this area.
All schools should provide an inclusive environment that allows every pupil to fulfill their potential, whatever their identity or background. Fundamentally we trust schools to know how best to support their pupils. We do not tell them what they should do but we do offer a range of supportive measures to help tackle discrimination. For example, we are investing in projects to help bring an end to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying.
Government guidance is clear that schools must tackle discrimination of any sort and this includes where it is because of gender reassignment or sexual orientation. We have not introduced new legislation on this. In fact, we already have one of the world’s strongest legislative frameworks in place to prevent and tackle discrimination.
It is up to schools to decide what facilities they provide, including whether to provide unisex or gender neutral toilets, and what uniform policy they set – they know what works best for their school and we know there are thousands of brilliant teachers creating supportive environments for their pupils. We expect them to take into account parents’ wishes and the needs of their pupils, but we don’t dictate how they should do this.
Bullying on any grounds – and whether online or offline – should not be tolerated. No child should have their life blighted by bullying, and schools must have measures in place to prevent it. We recognise that cyberbullying is a growing problem and that’s why we’ve issued advice on cyberbullying for parents and ensured through the curriculum that children are better educated about the dangers of the internet. We have strengthened teachers’ powers to retake control of their classrooms and a major study last year found that bullying in English schools has plummeted over the last decade.
We want to support schools to create the inclusive environment their pupils deserve – and are investing millions to do so. We announced £2 million funding for projects to tackle HBT bullying in October 2014, and we are building on that, announcing earlier this year that a further £1 million will be made available
This funding has helped schools to develop inclusive policies and run staff training to raise awareness and confidence in supporting their pupils and tackling harmful stereotypes. This includes innovative work with teachers to build their confidence and competence to respond to issues of transphobia and gender identity. It is also helping foster positive discussions and attitudes about the harm that bullying and prejudice can cause. Projects funded have reached more than 20,000 teachers and non-teaching staff, who can share what they have learned with their colleagues and build confidence to stamp out HBT bullying in their schools.