In a recent investigation by Vice News, it has been revealed that a significant number of trans children in the UK are avoiding school due to the fear of bullying, leading to dropout rates and concerns about their educational futures. The report sheds light on the struggles faced by 15 trans children who have experienced abuse from both peers and teachers, prompting them to abandon traditional education settings. This alarming trend raises questions about the support systems in place and the impact of government guidance on trans pupils.
Government Guidance and its Controversies:
The government's guidance for schools on trans pupils, published on December 19, has come under scrutiny for its combative language and controversial provisions. The non-statutory guidance allows teachers and school staff to “decline” a pupil's request to use the pronouns with which they identify. It also emphasizes that social transitioning is not a “neutral act” and advocates for a cautious approach in this area. Notably, the guidance specifies that responding to a pupil's request to socially transition does not grant access to essential spaces like toilets, showers, and changing rooms.
Impact on Trans Children:
The testimonies of trans children interviewed by Vice News highlight the severe consequences of such policies. Emily, a 15-year-old trans girl from Liverpool, shared her experience of being homeschooled after teachers “gave up” on preventing her bullying due to overwhelming negative attention. The report includes accounts from other trans children who have dropped out or delayed their return to education due to persistent bullying, revealing the emotional and physical toll this takes on their well-being.
Parental Concerns and Contradictions in Guidance:
Parents of trans children expressed dissatisfaction with the government's guidance, urging teachers to “ignore” it and provide actual support to the children. Some parents questioned the notion that trans children are “too young to know what they are,” emphasizing the challenges these children face and the importance of understanding and respecting their identities. Labour MP Nadia Whittome condemned the guidance as harmful, asserting that it exacerbates the already difficult experiences trans students often face in schools.
The investigation reveals that six of the interviewed trans children have been recorded as “long-term” sick, a status that exempts caregivers from fines or legal action for their children's absence. Despite this status, three children claim not to have heard from their local authority or school for more than 12 months, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the support systems in place.