New inclusivity guidelines say teachers should not question pupils but instead ask them for their new name and pronouns
Children as young as four will be able to change their name and gender at school without their parents’ consent under new LGBT inclusivity guidelines drawn up by the Scottish Government.
A 70-page document, issued to schools north of the border on Thursday, calls on teachers not to question pupils if they say that they want to transition to live as a boy or a girl and to instead ask them for their new name and pronouns.
The controversial guidance claims that it is possible to “come out” as transgender “at any age” and that the views of young people should be respected if they do not want their parents to be informed.
Scotland’s schools have also been told that trans pupils should be able to use whatever lavatory or changing room they choose, to develop “gender neutral” uniform options, and to include transgender characters and role models in reading material and lessons.
LGBT advocacy groups such as Stonewall, which helped draw up the guidance, welcomed the move and claimed the rules would help all children to “thrive”.
However, campaigners claimed a dangerous ideology was being pushed into schools and warned that children who displayed normal behaviour, such as playing with toys stereotypically associated with the other sex, risked being wrongly labelled as transgender.
'Failure in safeguarding'
“This is really, really worrying,” said Marion Calder, co-director of the For Women Scotland campaign group. “The bottom line is that this is a dangerous ideology that the Scottish Government is pushing.
“It shows a failure in safeguarding and a removal of parental rights. It used to be commonly understood that children should be able to play and experiment with gender roles, with clothing, their likes and dislikes.
“Those children are now being encouraged on to a medical pathway, potentially for the rest of their lives. We should not be teaching children, and especially primary school children, that you can change sex, because you cannot change sex.”
The guidance also includes a recommended reading list for primary schools, designed to promote trans inclusivity, and calls for posters which "challenge gender stereotypes" to be put up in classrooms.
One book included tells a story about a blue crayon which suffers an identity crisis because it was mistakenly labelled as red.
Another features a primary school-age narrator who says she has “a girl brain but a boy body” and claimed she knew that she was transgender as a toddler.
The character claims “pretending I was a boy felt like telling a lie” until an “amazing day” when she went to a doctor who diagnosed her as transgender.
The guidance has been published ahead of the new school year in Scotland and weeks after Richard Branson’s eldest daughter, Holly, revealed she had lived as a boy between the ages of four and 10, only to revert to her female identity.
Studies have shown that the vast majority of such children revert to their biological sex identity if untreated, although the quality and methodology of some of the research has been disputed.
Scottish teachers are urged not to say "it’s just a phase" if a child states they are transgender and to instead “be affirming” of how they feel.
Despite a prominent Scottish lawyer, Aidan O’Neill, recently writing a legal opinion which argued a school supporting a child’s wish to switch gender without informing parents was potentially illegal, teachers have been urged to respect children’s wishes.
“A transgender young person may not have told their family about their gender identity,” the document states.
“Inadvertent disclosure could cause needless stress for the young person or could put them at risk and breach legal requirements. Therefore, it is best to not share information with parents or carers without considering and respecting the young person’s views and rights.”
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the SNP education secretary, denied that the guidance promoted transitioning.
She said: “We know transgender young people can face many issues in schools and that teachers and staff must have the confidence and skills to support their mental, physical and emotional health.
“This guidance outlines how schools can support transgender young people while ensuring that the rights of all pupils are fully respected. It provides schools with practical suggestions.”