Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland schools to outline how schools can support trans children

Schools in Northern Ireland are to provide better support to transgender pupils under new guidance being drawn up by the Education Authority (EA). (stock picture)
Schools in Northern Ireland are to provide better support to transgender pupils under new guidance being drawn up by the Education Authority (EA). (stock picture)
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Schools in Northern Ireland are to provide better support to transgender pupils under new guidance being drawn up by the Education Authority (EA).

At the request of schools, the EA has appointed a steering group to draw up the guidance which will focus on practical issues such as name changes, uniform policy and the use of toilets.

The guidance is also designed to help schools assess the impact of changes in practice on other pupils.

It will be finalised and distributed to schools in mid-2019.

The steering group is made up of education stakeholders, clinical leads and voluntary sector organisations. The EA has also liaised with schools and parents of transgender children.

Organisations represented on the steering group include the Children's Law Centre, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the EA's educational psychology department, the NI Council for Integrated Education and Transgender NI.

Alexa Moore from Transgender NI said the move will address the current guidance vacuum facing schools today.

"The process of developing and finessing the guidance will take some time," he said.

"But it will result in improved confidence from schools to support trans children and young people within their walls, and will undoubtedly benefit the many hundreds of families across Northern Ireland who currently have trans children and young people in them.

"We look forward to helping this guidance be the best it can be, and to the significant benefits it brings to schools, families and young people themselves upon its release."

Last year, Department of Education research on the experiences of LGBTQ+ pupils in post-primary education found that the majority of transgender respondents did not feel safe at their schools in Northern Ireland, while only a small minority of schools covered transgender topics in their curriculum.

The EA said: "Research has highlighted a range of barriers to education and high levels of homophobic and transphobic bullying which can have a knock-on effect on young people's mental health, attendance at school and attainment.

"In developing the guidance, the Education Authority aims to increase the professional capacity and confidence of staff in supporting transgender children and young people and assist schools and youth services in promoting an inclusive environment where all children feel welcomed, safe and valued."

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