A new Vale of Glamorgan Transgender Toolkit – still putting children at risk

While waiting for the long-delayed Welsh national guidance, the Vale of Glamorgan has pressed ahead with adopting its own transgender toolkit for schools. While it’s a huge improvement on the previous version, adopted in 2018, it still suggests that social transition (changing a child’s name, pronouns and access to opposite sex spaces and sports, and treating them as if they had changed sex) should be available on a case by case basis.

Parents and schools need to ask – who’s taking responsibility for such decisions and their consequences?

When schools take case by case decisions about toilets, changing rooms and dormitories under the guidance of the Council, who will take legal responsibility? The Council, or the school’s governing body?

The new toolkit went out for consultation in early 2023 – you can read Merched Cymru’s response here.

Pushback from parents and schools

The long delay can likely be put down to the very high levels of response to the consultation, and the need for careful legal scrutiny.

It’s clear from the report on the consultation that:

  • lots of people,  particularly parents, were concerned about compromising single sex spaces;
  • schools and teachers were very concerned about being expected to make case by case decisions;
  • schools and parents objected to the idea of social transition happening without parental involvement.

As a result of the consultation, there have been a few small changes to the original draft, all of which we would view as positive. For example, the guidance now states clearly that schools should not support a learner to transition socially without involving the learner’s parents in the process, and emphasises that the Equality Act does not require a public sector body to treat the child or young person as if they were a sex other than that registered at birth, or require that they are permitted to transition socially at school.

Schools will no doubt be pleased to see the change to state clearly that schools are not expected to take decisions in isolation, and that local authority officers will provide support and guidance throughout the process.

You can view the papers for the Council meeting that reviewed the toolkit, including the report on the consultation, here.

What we’re still concerned about

Safeguarding out of the window on a case-by-case basis

Single sex spaces are there to protect children’s privacy, dignity and safety and compromising them introduces considerable risks for all the children, those who are questioning their gender and others – see below.

Dr Hilary Cass, in the interim report of her review into gender identity services for children and young people, states that social transition is “an active intervention because it may have significant effects on the child or young person in terms of their psychological functioning”.  If adults treat a child as if they had actually changed sex they risk solidifying what might otherwise have been a transient period of identity exploration.

Schools and teachers are right to be concerned about being asked to make such a significant intervention. In all its many pages, the toolkit offers no criteria for these case-by-case judgements. Which children would be treated as if they had changed sex? Who is responsible for these decisions and their outcomes?

The document acknowledges that other people have rights, that social transition is a significant intervention and that it is legal for schools to maintain single sex spaces. But it still proposes compromising single sex provision based on a balancing exercise of the impact on trans or gender variant pupils and all other pupils of allowing a trans and gender variant pupil into single sex spaces such as toilets, changing rooms or single sex bedrooms on school trips.”

There is no reference to risk, or safeguarding, in the assessment of this ‘balancing act’ of rights.

Will parents really be kept informed?

Despite the stated change that social transition shouldn’t happen without parental involvement, the minutes of the council meeting where the document was adopted make it clear that parents might be kept in the dark if a child says they would be really upset if their parents were informed.

if informing parents could be detrimental to the mental health of the child or young person, then the involvement of safeguarding professionals would be advised.”
VoG Council Learning and skills scrutiny sub-committee, Jan 11, p11

A partial presentation of the legal situation

The guidance does reference the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s updated technical guidance for schools in England, updated September 23. However, it does not include probably the most relevant paragraph.

The law requires schools to provide single sex toilet facilities for children over eight and single sex changing facilities for children over 11. These may be either in sex-segregated communal facilities or in single-user lockable rooms.

While the EHRC Wales has yet to issue its own version of the technical guidance, the applicable law is the same in Wales as in England.

Allowing a child to use opposite-sex toilet and changing facilities will be breaking the law and going directly against the guidance of the statutory body set up to provide guidance on interpretation of the law. It’s quite clear – no child has changed sex, either legally or materially.

When schools take case by case decisions about toilets, changing rooms and dormitories under the guidance of the Council, who will take legal responsibility? The Council, or the school’s governing body?

Downplaying the risks to girls – taking the sex out of sexual assault

The Equality Impact Assessment is meant to look at the potential impact of a policy on all protected characteristics. However the data review looks only at research on LGBTQ young people, and includes no data on sexual harassment and assault. It refers to ‘a perceived lack of safety for girls’, suggesting that the recognised and well-researched pattern of sexual harassment and assault of girls, by boys, is a subjective perception.

But girls, parents and teachers concerned about girls’ safety have plenty of evidence to back up their perceptions of risk. In January 2024, a new police report revealed the shocking level of sexual crimes carried out on children by other children. It’s quite clear that the perpetrators are overwhelmingly male, and the victims mostly female. (The most common offence for girls was sharing photos of themselves – an offence if they are under 18.)

The most common offences committed by 10 to 17-year-olds were sexual assault on a female (15%), rape of a female under 16 (12%), and taking, making or sharing indecent images. Ian Critchley, national policing lead for child abuse protection and investigation, said: “This is predominantly a gender-based crime of boys committing offences against girls.”

This evidence is a shocking omission from the EIA, and should be considered in every risk assessment carried out by any school regarding decisions about single sex spaces, alongside the substantial existing body of research in this area, including the Estyn report We don’t tell our teachers,”Ofsted’s report into sexual harassment in schools and the Everyone’s Invited campaign.

Ignoring the sex-based nature of sexual harassment and framing girls’ experiences as ‘perceived risks’ is an effective way of undermining the importance of sex segregation as a vital means of protecting girls.

Harassment and assault of boys by other boys is of course deplorable, but compromising girls’ boundaries and safety is not a solution. Girls, and girls’ spaces, are not shields for vulnerable boys.

Ideological language

The updated toolkit acknowledges that there are different views on whether social transition is potentially harmful or helpful, and recommends supportive ‘watchful waiting’, recognising the many changes that may take place through a childhood and adolescence. However, it talks throughout about “trans and non binary children”.

Any child who questions their gender has a right not to be discriminated against, to access education and be protected from bullying, and the guidance should cover all these children. Research suggests that a large majority will not grow up to identify as trans in the long-term. Calling these children ‘trans children’ assumes an outcome, and doesn’t cover many children who should be considered here. We support the approach taken in the draft guidance for schools in England, which refers to ‘gender questioning’ children.

The toolkit still encourages schools to teach “most, rather than all boys have a penis and testicles and most, rather than all girls have a vulva and vagina”. This is, at best, an encouragement to teach a contested belief as a fact. This fails in schools’ duty to be pluralistic and reflect the diversity of opinion on contested issues. At worst, it risks confusing all the children about basic facts about their bodies and how they work eg who can get pregnant and who can impregnate.

Belief – and the right not to believe

While the Equality Impact Assessment does, this time, acknowledge other protected characteristics, there’s no acknowledgement of the potential effects on communities which particularly value sex segregation. It also totally ignores the rights of people (staff and pupils) not to believe in gender identity, and to express that belief, as confirmed by the Forstater, Meade and Phoenix cases. Obliging teachers to follow the toolkit’s approach may lead schools into discriminating against staff members who believe that sex is real and can’t be changed.



The Equality Impact Assessment mentions the need for schools to have training in how to support trans-identifying children. Many of the organisations offering training in this space are the same ones who wrote and endorsed the old toolkit, which had to be withdrawn in the Vale and many other areas following the threat of legal challenge. They advocate for an affirmation-only approach to gender identity, and campaign explicitly for self-ID of gender and access to gender-affirming medical treatment for children and do not have safeguarding expertise.

It would be entirely inappropriate for organisations taking these positions to be training school staff in how to apply this toolkit, which despite its weaknesses, does take a more cautious approach and does acknowledge the need to respect the rights of others. Schools need to get training from trainers and organisations with a non-ideological, safeguarding-first approach.

Questions to ask

If you live in the Vale of Glamorgan, we’d suggest raising these questions with the Council, and with your school:

  1. If the school is advised to ask the Council’s safeguarding officer for help in making these ‘case by case’ decisions on access to opposite sex spaces, who is legally responsible? If a child is harmed as a direct result of eg a decision to allow a female child to sleep in a boys’ dormitory on a trip, or someone considers their rights have been violated, who will be the subject of legal process?  The school’s governing body? Or the Council?
  2. Bearing in mind the considerable evidence of sexual harassment and abuse in school-age children, and the clear patterns of male perpetrators, how will safeguarding and risk assessment be applied in these decisions?
  3. Who will be training schools? Will the training organisations follow the approach in the toolkit, and accurately present the law as it stands, or present their own campaigning agenda?