Schools and colleges should “proceed with extreme caution” over transgender issues, education secretary Gillian Keegan said as she confirmed long-awaited guidance has been delayed again.
In a parliamentary statement, Keegan said pushing back publication of the guidance would “allow more time” to speak to teachers, parents and lawyers to ensure it “meets the high expectations that these groups rightly have for it”.
However national newspapers have reported the delay relates to some of the proposed guidance breaking laws and cabinet split on how to proceed.
Academies minister Baroness Barran has said guidance will set out schools’ legal duties and provide “clear information to support their consideration of how to respond to transgender issues”.
But Keegan said today: “It is a difficult and sensitive area and more information is needed about the long-term implications of a child to act as though they are the opposite sex.
“We also need to take care to understand how such actions affect other children in the school or college. These decisions must not be taken lightly or in haste.
“It is vital that the guidance we publish gives clarity for schools and colleges and reassurance for parents.
“So, we have made the decision to allow more time – to speak to teachers, parents, lawyers and other stakeholders – in order to ensure this guidance meets the high expectations that these groups rightly have for it.”
The delay has frustrated unions representing school leaders, who have long called for the guidance to be published.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said: “At present, schools have to navigate this complex and sensitive subject entirely on their own.
“Clear, practical guidance on this matter is important as long as it is genuinely supportive to schools and pupils and does not add to the existing and onerous expectations on schools.”
Rye College school faced a snap Ofsted inspection after a national media and political storm over a leaked recording of a teacher talking to pupils about gender.
Keegan said that, “in the meantime, schools and colleges should proceed with extreme caution” when dealing with such issues.
“They should always involve parents in decisions relating to their child, and should not agree to any changes that they are not absolutely confident are in the best interests of that child and their peers,” she said.
“They should prioritise safeguarding by meeting their existing legal duties to protect single sex spaces and maintain safety and fairness in single sex sport.”