Teachers are calling for more training to deal with transgender issues in schools as evidence emerges that more pupils are coming out.
Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Liverpool were told that the issue could be more difficult in single-sex schools.
Graham Easterlow, who teaches in an all boys’ school, told how one pupil had confided in teachers that she wanted to identify as a girl.
He said he had gone to the headteacher about the girl’s statement and discovered there was “no precedent and no process” for dealing with the issue.
“Schools are ill prepared for this,” he added. “There is a blind spot on this particular issue.”
He said the headteacher had been supportive but some senior staff dismissed the girl’s statement, saying it was “just a fad”.
The school had decided to take the attitude of “let’s calm down – this is not an issue”, he said. It had made minor adjustments when necessary – such as allowing the girl to change for sport separately.
Mr Easterley said it was probably more difficult for a male-to-female transition in a boys’ school. “In a school where most of them (the pupils) are playing rugby, is now the time for me to come out, a pupil might ask,” he said.
He added that he doubted whether many schools had policies to deal with similar situation.
Helen Porter, from Berkshire, told how – at an all girls’school – two pupils had indicated they were male when they were in the sixth-form. “There was no problem with uniform because the girls were allowed to wear trousers,” she added.
The conference overwhelmingly endorsed a motion deploring “the paucity of meaningful and informed discussion of gender identity and trans issues within schools and colleges”.
“Young people with questions about or an interest in gender identity have very few reliable sources with which to counter the factually incorrect, prejudicial and abusive messages that often prevail in social media, traditional media and on the internet,” it added.
Delegates voted to call for funding to allow specialist organisations in the area to go into schools to provide training for staff.