An association of 25 girls’ schools in England and Wales has adopted a new policy to maintain the institutions’ single-sex status by refusing admissions to trans-identified biological male students.
The Girls’ Day School Trust updated its policy on gender identity last month, saying it’s “committed to single-sex education for girls,” and, therefore, admissions to the schools “are based on the prospective student’s legal sex as recorded on their birth certificate.”
“Applications from students who are legally female but who identify as trans or non-binary will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis,” the policy states. “Single-sex schools present a particular context for transgender students. There may be cultural challenges involved in a trans student who does not identify as a girl attending a school which deliberately tailors its ethos and educational approach to cater specifically for girls.”
The policy argues that admissions policies based on gender identity instead of sex recorded on a student’s birth certificate would “jeopardise the status of GDST schools as single-sex schools under the act.”
“For this reason, GDST schools do not accept applications from students who are legally male,” the policy stresses. “We will, however, continue to monitor the legal interpretation of this exemption.”
GDST Chief Executive Cheryl Giovannoni said in a statement that its member schools “are able to operate a single-sex admissions policy, without breaching the Equality Act 2010 on the basis of an exemption relating to biological sex.”
“Under current laws and guidance, the GDST believes that an admissions policy based on gender identity rather than the legal sex recorded on a student’s birth certificate could jeopardise the status of GDST schools as single-sex schools under the act,” Giovannoni maintains.
Teacher and trans campaigner Debbie Hayton wrote an op-ed for the UnHerd titled “A Win for Common Sense at The Girls’ Day School Trust.”
“As the law stands, children in the UK cannot acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate which means they cannot change their legal sex,” Hayton wrote. “So that means that there is no question about girls’ schools excluding girls who choose to identify as boys: they are still female legally as well as biologically. Trans-identified girls are not being turned down.”
“The group being excluded are boys who identify as girls, but not because of their gender identity,” Hayton continued. “One only needs to look as far as the Equality Act 2010, which allows single-sex schools to ‘refuse to admit pupils of the opposite sex’. ... Those boys remain legally male and therefore ineligible.”
Headteachers in the United Kingdom have called on the Department for Education to frame national guidance on transgender issues to be published as education leaders are “struggling” to cope, according to The Telegraph.
“It is a really big issue and the lack of formal guidance for schools is something that we are concerned about,” Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School of College Leaders, was quoted as saying. “This issue has grown quite rapidly over the past few years and it certainly feels like something that has become much more common. It is increasingly something that almost all schools are having to think about, but particularly single sex schools.”
In 2017, when the gender identity issue was becoming more prominent in the U.K. and the number of children referred to gender identity clinics was on the rise, a major school guide announced that it would rate schools based on how “transgender-friendly” they are.
Sally-Anne Huang, the headmistress of the private James Allen’s Girls’ School in south London, said at the time that she would no longer be calling her students “girls” to avoid potentially offending pupils who were questioning their gender.
“I try not to say ‘girls,’ [but] when you have been teaching for 20 years, it is very hard not to say ‘girls,’” she said, according to The Sunday Times.
Some critics have, however, warned that pushing trans issues on young people risks leaving them confused.
Chris McGovern, a former adviser to the Department for Education, warned in 2017 that “people are making a career out of encouraging children to question gender at an age when they need to be left to be children.”
“When teachers raise these issues children can become confused or unhappy and traumatized by it,” he said.