Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is developing guidance for schools on how to deal with trans students.
Zahawi was asked what his department is doing about trans students in single-sex spaces by Tory MPs Miriam Cates and Caroline Johnson at the education select committee on Wednesday (20 April).
Addressing the committee, Cates claimed children “who don’t have a settled idea of gender or sexuality” are being told they could be trans or non-binary in schools. She went on to reference research that found one in five teachers wouldn’t tell a parent if their child came out as trans.
“That is a huge safeguarding fail, cutting parents out from a decision that’s really important about children’s life,” Cates said.
Responding to Cates, Zahawi said parents “have to be front and centre” when it comes to navigating trans issues in schools.
“That is my message to the front-line, to say you have to involve parents, you have a duty to safeguard those children, and parents are very much part of that,” Zahawi said.
“I think it’s incumbent on us as a department because I have the capacity, I have the people, I have the ability to bring in external advice.
“The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to say, ‘Can we help you with this?’ and I’ve invited them in to help on this because I think it’s only right that we are able to be as clear, and publish guidance that is very clear, around these issues around gender and sex.”
Tory MP Caroline Johnson told Nadhim Zahawi that parents had contacted her expressing concern about cisgender girls sharing spaces with trans girls in boarding houses.
Johnson said a trans girl in question had been provided with en-suite accommodation “in recognition of [her] needs and privacy”, but that her fellow students were still “uncomfortable”.
Zahawi responded: “A trans student has to be protected, has to be dealt with in a way that is appropriate and delivers all the protections that are right.
“But I also think it’s equally important that the frontline feel supported and informed as to how to deal with these particular situations – whether it be the one you outlined, or in terms of changing rooms in school.”
PinkNews has contacted Nadhim Zahawi for comment.
UK’s so-called equalities watchdog has faced criticism over guidance on trans issues
The EHRC is Britain’s equalities watchdog, but it has come under increasing scrutiny from LGBT+ activists in recent months after it issued controversial guidance around conversion therapy and gender recognition reform.
There was uproar in February when an “unpublished guidance pack dated from the end of 2021”, allegedly produced by the EHRC, was leaked by Vice World News. That leaked guidance suggested that the EHRC was preparing to exclude trans people who don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from single-sex spaces.
The EHRC said the report was “seriously inaccurate and does not match any document we are aware of”.
On 4 April, the EHRC published its long-promised guidance for separate and single-sex service providers. The watchdog urged providers to balance the “rights and needs of trans people” with the “different interests and needs of users”.
Controversially, the guidance also laid out ways in which trans people can be lawfully excluded from single sex spaces under the Equality Act.
Reports suggest that staff at the EHRC are increasingly unhappy with the approach the watchdog is taking to trans rights. Former employees told Vice World News in February that people were quitting en-masse due to “transphobia” behind the scenes.
One staffer described the EHRC as “the enemy of human rights”.