For saying that teachers shouldn’t pander to trans pupils, Suella Braverman has found herself in hot water. The Attorney General suggested in an interview with the Times that male pupils should not be able to use girls’ toilets, and that single-sex schools can indeed restrict admission to children of just one sex. These are hardly revolutionary ideas, but they appear to have upset the National Education Union.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, took just a few hours to respond to Braverman: ‘Discrimination against transgender pupils is illegal under 2010 Equalities Act,’ she warned, adding that:
‘Schools should ignore the misleading advice from the Attorney General and continue to treat their trans pupils with the dignity and respect they are entitled to.’Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary NEU
Braverman is a barrister who practised at the bar for 10 years, so we should expect her to understand the law. But is it the NEU, rather than Braverman, that has got into a muddle by confusing two protected characteristics?
The Equality Act is clear. Both sex and gender reassignment are protected, and it is unlawful to treat anyone less favourably as a result. But boys are still boys, even if they claim the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. While they should not, of course, face discrimination or harassment, they cannot expect to be treated in the same way as girls.
Earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission was clear:
‘Under the Equality Act people are protected from sex discrimination on the basis of their legal sex.’EHRC
And since children in the UK cannot (yet) apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, their legal sex is the same as their biological sex. So what does the NEU think? Bousted’s original statement was brief, but the union told The Spectator that:
‘The 2010 Equality Act protects people from discrimination – and this includes staff and students. It was wholly wrong for the Government’s senior law officer to tell schools to ignore the Equalities Act, which requires schools to take barriers and prejudices away, not create them. The NEU is advising schools to abide by the law. Trans and non-binary students need to find school a positive experience, and for example, the names and pronouns that they want to use in school should be respected and used …
We think teachers should continue to treat trans and non- binary pupils with understanding and in a supportive manner, referring students for other support where it’s necessary.’National Education Union
But what about the other children in the school? Who looks out for their rights? What do we say to children who feel uncomfortable calling someone ‘she’ when their brain wants to say ‘he’? The NEU talks of ‘other support’; but what do they have in mind here? We have no idea what cognitive conflicts are being created in the minds of children.
Of course, children who have identified as trans or non-binary will face specific challenges as a result, but we must accommodate them without sacrificing the rights of other groups. That was the basis of the Attorney General’s remarks. No child should be expected to share single sex-facilities with children of the opposite sex.
But does the NEU agree with that? Guidance published elsewhere on their website, Supporting trans and gender questioning students examines the question of toilets and changing rooms. According to the NEU it is ‘the most commonly asked question regarding trans people’. Their response?
‘Ask the young person what would make them most comfortable. If what they want is realistic and possible, then go with it.’National Education Union
The guidance offers further advice on how to cater for “young trans people’ who don’t want to use ‘the facilities that correspond with their gender identity’. But what about other children? Are they expected to budge up and make room, whether they like it or not? Or will they be referred for ‘other support’?
Ironically, when discussing gender-neutral toilets, the NEU points out that:
‘It is not good practice to make all toilet facilities gender neutral however, because some students, especially girls, will prefer single-sex toilets.’National Education Union
But how does that position hold if male children who say they are transgender might at some stage be allowed access to those toilets? Such logical absurdities are all too common wherever transgender ideology has taken root.
Thankfully, politicians are waking up to the dangers and calling them out. Miriam Cates, Tory MP and former secondary school science teacher, told me that:
‘There are sound safety reasons to separate boys and girls in intimate spaces and in sport and no child should be allowed to ‘choose’ which facilities they use.’Miriam Cates MP
The NEU would do well to take note.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 31 May 2022: Suella Braverman is right: schools shouldn’t pander to trans pupils.