Transgender guidance for schools will take a “little bit longer”, the Education Secretary has said after head teachers vented their frustration over the delay.
Gillian Keegan confirmed on Wednesday that schools will be required to obtain parental consent for pupils to identify as a different gender.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union has said the lack of guidance is “frustrating” as teachers are having to navigate the “complex and sensitive subject” of gender identity on their own.
In March, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged that guidance for schools on transgender issues would be published “for the summer term”.
Mr. Sunak has said it is “important” to take the time to get the guidance on transgender pupils right as it is a “complex and sensitive issue”.
Ms Keegan told ITV’s Peston programme: “We are working on the guidance and we were hoping to get that out but it is going to take us a little bit longer.
“It is confusing, by the way, and we know that people are confused – that’s why we are committed to doing the guidance in the first place.”
The Education Secretary said it would state that children should not change gender ID without schools having a conversation with parents.
“Yes, we think parental consent is really very important in this,” she said.
The ministers made clear they favored issuing guidance rather than a law change because “guidance is quicker than legislation”.
Reports in The Times have suggested the Attorney General and Government lawyers said plans to strengthen guidance would be unlawful, which could mean the publication of the guidance was delayed.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, criticized the delay.
Mr Barton said: “We’ve been telling the Government that schools and colleges need clear guidance on provision for transgender and gender-questioning pupils for the past five years, so it is frustrating that it has now got to the point of producing something but appears to be locked in an internal political squabble which is causing a further delay.
“At present, schools have to navigate this complex and sensitive subject entirely on their own.
“Clear, practical guidance on this matter is important as long as it is genuinely supportive to schools and pupils and does not add to the existing and onerous expectations in schools.”
A report by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, published in March, suggested a number of secondary schools are not informing parents as soon as a child questions their gender identity.
It is suggested that safeguarding principles are being “routinely disregarded in many secondary schools” when it comes to gender identity.
Mr Sunak told broadcasters on Wednesday: “This is a really complex and sensitive issue because it affects the wellbeing of our children.
“And it’s important that we get it right, given those complexities and sensitivities.
“I’m committed to bringing forward that guidance but I want to make sure that we take the time to go through it properly.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “more evidence” is needed before publishing the guidance on transgender pupils, but he declined to say whether ministers would change the law alongside the new guidance.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said: “By longstanding convention, reflected in the Ministerial Code, whether the law officers have been asked to provide legal advice and the content of any advice is not disclosed outside Government without their explicit consent. That consent is rarely given.”