New guidance on gender identity for schools and colleges
The Department for Education, together with the Government’s Equality Hub, has published
draft non statutory guidance which aims to clarify the approach schools and colleges should take where a pupil or student believes that their ‘gender identity’ is different to their biological sex.
The draft guidance acknowledges that this is a ‘highly sensitive and complex issue’ which is ‘still not properly understood’. It sets out five general principles schools and colleges can use to respond to specific requests to accommodate a pupil or student who wishes to socially transition at school or college. These are:
Schools and colleges have statutory duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children. They should consider how best to fulfil that duty towards the child who is making such a request and their peers, ensuring that any agreed course of action is in all of their best interests. This may or may not be the same as a child’s wishes. Knowing a child’s sex is critical to schools’ and colleges’ safeguarding duties.
Schools and colleges should be respectful and tolerant places where bullying is never tolerated. Staff and children should treat each other with compassion and consideration, in accordance with the ethos of the school or college.
Parents should not be excluded from decisions relating to requests for a child to socially transition. Where a child requests action from a school or college in relation to any degree of social transition, schools and colleges should engage parents as a matter of priority, and encourage the child to speak to their parents, other than in the exceptionally rare circumstances where involving parents would constitute a significant risk of harm to the child.
Schools and colleges have specific legal duties that are framed by a child’s biological sex. While legislation exists that allows adults to go through a process to change their legal sex, children’s legal sex is always the same as their biological sex.
There is no general duty to allow a child to social transition. Social transition is not a neutral act, and better information is needed about the outcomes for children who undertake degrees of social transition. If a school or college decides to accommodate a request, it should adopt a cautious approach that complies with its legal duties. However, some forms of social transition will not be compatible with schools’ and colleges’ statutory responsibilities.
consultation closes on Tuesday 12 March 2024.
Mental health toll on school leaders
According to the results of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT’s)
annual survey of all its members in England, the wellbeing of school leaders is significantly affected by their workload, inspections, and the accountability system.
This year, almost half (49%) of school leaders in England reported a need for professional mental health or wellbeing support. Of these leaders, over a third (38%) had sought support, while 7% were unsure how to access it and 5% found it unavailable. School leaders identified the pressures of Ofsted inspections as the primary factor impacting their mental health in the past year.
The report highlights a growing discontent among school leaders. A majority (57%) of them would not recommend leadership as a career choice, and 61% expressed a decline in work satisfaction over the past twelve months. Additionally, nearly two-thirds (61%) of assistant and deputy heads stated that they have no aspirations to become school heads, a significant increase from 2016 when only 40% felt the same way.
New Ofsted chief will delay the return of routine inspections
The new Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Sir Martyn Oliver has
announced that the routine inspection of schools in the first weeks of 2024 will be delayed until he is ‘convinced’ and ‘happy’ that lead inspectors have undergone, what he refers to as ‘expert’ and ‘external’ training, according to the TES.
Government launches consultation about the development of the new Advanced British Standard
In a recent
press release, the government invited the public to have their say about the new Advanced British Standard. There’s an increase in teaching time of around 200 hours over the course of the qualification, greater choice for young people and more focus on Maths and English. As part of the new standard, most students will choose a minimum of 5 subjects built on A-Levels and T-Levels.
consultation closes on Wednesday 20 March 2024.
Education Policy Institute data shows attainment gap widens
R ecent data published by Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their peers has widened across the board since the pandemic. This is the second phase of the annual report focusing on how attainment gaps vary by sex, English as an additional language (EAL) and geography, as well as the attainment gap for students in 16-19 education. This report comes after the first phase published in October 2023 showed record attainment gaps for young children with special educational needs.
Ofsted inspection as a contributing factor to headteacher’s suicide
According to Heidi Connor, senior coroner for Berkshire, Ruth Perry’s suicide was influenced by an Ofsted inspection that took place in November 2022 at the school where she served as the leader. The coroner described the inspection as rude and intimidating and concluded that Ruth’s mental health significantly declined during and after the inspection, ultimately leading to her taking her own life. The coroner has sent a prevention of future deaths report to Ofsted and the Education Secretary and they now have 56 days to respond.
ONS publishes data on ethnicity pay gap
The Office for National Statistics has published a new report on ethnicity pay gaps in the UK for 2022. The main factors that explain most differences between the groups were: occupation, highest qualification level, geography, age and sex. The main findings from the report are:
Between 2012 and 2022, Black, African, Caribbean or Black British employees were the only ethnicity group to be consistently earning less than White employees.
Black, African, Caribbean or Black British employees earned less (£13.53) median gross hourly pay than White employees (£14.35) between 2012 and 2022.
Religious discrimination commonplace
Discrimination against religious employees is common in many workplaces, according to new research into religion at work which examined the experiences of 6,315 workers in the UK and the US.
Religion at Work report found that:
47% of respondents did not feel comfortable discussing with colleagues the religious festivals they celebrate
64% of employees who wore religious dress or symbols were not comfortable wearing them in the workplace
19% said their employers had rejected requests to take time off to celebrate religious holidays
32% had a negative experience after expressing their religious identity at work including being mocked, excluded and stereotyped.
Government publishes Code of Practice for trade unions on minimum service levels
Once Minimum Service Levels regulations are in place for schools and colleges and strike action is called, employers can issue work notices to identify people who are reasonably required to work to ensure minimum service levels set out in the regulations are met. It is a legal requirement for unions to take reasonable steps and ensure their members who are identified in a work notice comply with it. The Code, published by the Department for Business and Trade, sets out the reasonable steps trade unions should take to ensure their members comply with work notices and help ensure minimum service levels are met. Employment tribunal cases fall to pre-pandemic levels
Ministry of Justice data reveals a decrease in single tribunal claims compared to the same period last year. They have now returned to pre-pandemic levels. New ICO’s consultation on employment guidance
The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has recently announced that it is developing an online resource to help employers understand the legal requirements they have to meet to comply with data protection laws. As part of this process, the ICO has released draft guidance on “
Keeping employment records” and “ Recruitment and selection” for consultation. Both drafts include practical tools like checklists to support employers. Public sector equality duty guidance updated
The government has recently updated its
statutory guidance in respect of the Public Sector Equality Duty to make it clear that organisations need to ensure that they accurately reflect the nine protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, in particular the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. It explains that organisations ‘should not use concepts such as gender or gender identity, which are not encoded in the Act and can be understood in different ways.’
letter which accompanies the updated guidance, Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch, has also made it clear that there is no ‘hierarchy of rights’ and that all nine characteristics are equally important when public authorities consider how to remove or minimise disadvantage by those with protected characteristics.
Read more – January 2024
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