RCT council ‘Transgender Toolkit For Secondary Schools’ is a safeguarding nightmare.

Tanya Carter from Safe Schools Alliance UK talks about the group’s concerns with the undermining of safeguarding and misrepresentations of the law contained in this document.

Safe Schools Alliance UK are appalled at the actions of the Welsh high school  acting on this guidance from Rhondda Cynon Taff council.

They have failed this vulnerable child and his family miserably. They have thrown all established safeguarding out the window. They have abandoned the principle of working collaboratively with parents in the best interests of children. They have shown absolutely no professional curiosity regarding the toolkit from the council.

Safeguarding is the number one priority with any policy that affects children. Professionals should not unquestionably accept guidance that undermines parental responsibility, fails to respect the rights of all children and removes vulnerable individuals from long-established safeguarding protocols.

Safeguarding is the responsibility of every single adult in society. We all have a responsibility to speak up when something is wrong. The motives of those not wishing to adhere to safeguarding or questioning the need for it must be critically examined.

Questions to be asked

Why would somebody want to keep secrets from a child’s parents? Why would anybody want to abandon long-established safeguards such as sex segregation when children are undressed and vulnerable? Why are so many people so keen to be seen as ‘progressive’ and seemingly seemingly unaware of principles such as Chesterton’s fence and the importance of understanding the rationale behind decisions?

The school in this case appear to have acted as if they have the authority to remove parental responsibility. They do not. Only courts can do this. If schools suspect that parents are abusing a child either emotionally, physically, sexually or by neglect, there are established protocols for recording concerns, involving outside agencies and ultimately applying to courts to remove parental responsibility. This is a long and in depth process, as it should be; it is not something that schools can just decide to do due to a difference of opinion with parents. The school also appear to have acted as if they are medical professionals with the expertise to prescribe psychosocial treatment. Again, they are not. This is an incredibly damaging overreach with long-term consequences for both the wellbeing of this individual child and relationships with parents as a whole.

Latest legal cases

The school and council appear to have been unaware of latest legal developments, particularly Bell v Tavistock  and the withdrawal of similar toolkits following legal action against Oxfordshire County Council and the Crown Prosecution Service.  Again this is a serious professional failing.

Online issues and Prevent

The school have failed to take a holistic approach to this child’s mental distress. What exploration was made of any connection between the child’s sudden gender confusion and the bullying he had suffered or what he had been viewing online? Are the school up to date with all safeguarding training, particularly relating to online issues? Is prevent training up to date? Are staff able to transfer learning from one situation to another? Society is becoming aware that the same risk factors that could leave children vulnerable to ISIS or far right ideology (struggling to fit in, looking to find an identity/their place in the world, a reason for their problems) also leaves them vulnerable to other dangerous online communities such as ‘incels.’ Anybody working with children needs to be aware that this learning needs to be extended further. There are many dangerous online communities such as pro-ana (anorexia) and pro-Mia (bulimia) sites that glorify cutting and other forms of self-harm. In addition there are now forums that encourage children who are gender non-conforming, beginning to realise a same sex attraction, autistic and/or merely struggling to fit in, to believe that maybe they’re ‘trans’ and transitioning will solve all their problems.

Are adults even aware of the multitude of hashtags, posts and videos on sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, tumblr and tiktok that glamourise transition? This child was a member of at least some such sites.

The decision by the school to place a confused teenage boy into the girls PE group with little to no consideration for the girls in the group is simply staggering. It is indicative of the deep-rooted misogyny that still permeates our society and schools that girls are viewed merely as support humans and not individuals in their own right with their own needs and entitlement to respect, privacy, dignity and fairness; and girls are socialised into accepting this.

It would be tragic enough if this was was a case confined to this one family and it was just one 13-year-old child that had been failed by those adults charged with safeguarding him, but it is not.

This toolkit fails every child in the county with its disregard for child safeguarding and respecting the human rights of all. It is arguably unlawful and should not return after review.

Failures and legal liability

The council have failed in their Public Sector Equality Duty with the publication of this toolkit. Far from fulfilling their obligation to ‘Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not’ and ‘Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.’ they have let down all children by failing to balance the rights of all. They have clearly not carried out an equality impact assessment on all nine protected characteristics, thus this toolkit impinges on the rights of others, particularly girls and those with the protected characteristics of disability, religion/belief, sex and sexual orientation. It also encroaches on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 8 of the Human Rights Act  thus leaving schools open to legal action.
Schools need to be absolutely clear that it is they that will be liable for the consequences of implementing this erroneous guidance and not those that wrote it.

The guidance is overly reliant on ‘advice’ from Stonewall Cymru. Recent years have seen Stonewall repeatedly hit the press for all the wrong reasons. They are a political lobby group who have lost their way and strayed far from their original, laudable aims. Far from ensuring equal rights for same-sex attracted individuals, they have fallen into pushing a regressive, misogynistic, homophobic and highly politicised ideology, regardless of who disagrees.

Indeed many of the previous supporters and even founders now campaign against them. That Stonewall haven’t seen this as an opportunity for reflection is concerning. As anybody with an in depth understanding of safeguarding will know, the ability to self reflect is an important part of safeguarding. You should be able to reflect on not only what your intentions are, but how your actions may appear to others. The fact the Stonewall appear completely incapable of this, once again reflects their unsuitability to be involved in influencing the care of very vulnerable and confused children.

The toolkit consistently confuses ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and repeatedly refers to ‘gender segregated activities’ in schools. In 2021, no school should be segregating pupils on the basis of gender. However the are occasions, e.g. sports, toilets, changing rooms, overnight accommodation and some sensitive topics, where it will be necessary to separate pupils on the basis of sex. This would be for reasons such as safety, fairness, privacy and dignity.

The toolkit references highly contested language and concepts such as ‘non-binary’, ‘cisgender’ and ‘Gender Queer’ as if they were accepted facts rather than a particular political viewpoint. This contravenes the 1996 Education Act. It also uses the farcical ‘gender unicorn’. This resource is so devoid of scientific fact it is frequently queried if it is in fact a spoof. Sadly it is not. The gender unicorn is a variation of the notorious ‘genderbread person’, the problems with which are detailed here [DOC].

The toolkit also links to the controversial charity Mermaids who currently appear to be lurching from one safeguarding scandal to another.

There are many, many issues with this toolkit, far too numerous to mention in a single blog post. We hope that like previous toolkits withdrawn for review this never returns. If it does return without the significant changes necessary to safeguard children, we look forward to it being afforded the scrutiny of a judicial review. These policies, drafted in the shadows must be subjected to the bright sunlight of public inspection. As adults it is the least we owe to the next generation whose wellbeing has been entrusted to us.