What does the Department for Education say?

Regarding the teaching of sex, gender and gender identity, the Department for Education (DfE) issued the following guidance in September 2020 (our emphasis in bold):

“We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate.

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.

Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material.

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.

You should work together with parents on any decisions regarding your school’s treatment of their child, in line with the school’s safeguarding policy and the statutory guidance on working together to safeguard children.”

In the September 2020 guidance, the Department for Education also reminds schools of their duty to comply with the Equality Act 2010. The DfE says:

“The Public Sector Equality Duty (as set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010) requires all public authorities (including state-funded schools) in the exercise of their function, to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
  • foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it

Relevant protected characteristics [within school] are:

age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

State-funded schools must ensure that the public sector equality duty is discharged when taking decisions.

Pupils should leave school with a proper understanding of the importance of equality and respecting and understanding differences. This includes differences in religion, belief, or sexual orientation”