New guidance for teachers in supporting transgender young people has been reported in a number of news outlets.
The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and GB News were among those who reported on the document. The online version of The Daily Mail’s article is headlined “Scotland will let pupils change gender aged FOUR without their parents’ consent – and tells teachers not to question a child’s request to choose a new name or use a different toilet”.
In the print version of the newspaper, the headline was “Pupils, 4, will be able to swap gender in school without parents’ consent”.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Mostly False.
The Scottish Government released new guidance for teachers and school staff on 12 August 2021, called “Supporting Transgender Pupils In Schools: Guidance for Scottish Schools”.
It is intended to advise staff who may need to help trans and gender non-conforming young people in schools. It offers advice on a number of issues including tackling transphobic bullying, helping young people who are ‘coming out’ as transgender, using the correct pronouns and use of toilets and changing rooms.
The Daily Mail article’s headline states that “Scotland will let pupils change gender aged FOUR without their parents’ consent”. This is misleading.
The guidance provides information for teachers to support those who are questioning their gender identity or who are coming out as transgender. In a section about changing a pupils name and recorded sex, the document states that some pupils may “choose to tell others informally that they want to use a different name”.
This does not need to be changed on the school’s record but the new name can be added to the ‘known as’ section.
If a young person under 16 years old wants to change their name or recorded sex formally, the guidance states they can write to the school with their parents or carers to get the record altered.
The guidance states: “Recognising the rights of all parents and carers, it is recommended that consent is obtained from all of those with parental responsibilities for those young people under 16.”
Someone aged under 16 in Scotland cannot legally change their name but a parent or caregiver can do so through a statutory declaration, which is an oath signed by the parent and administered by a solicitor, notary public, or other officer of a court.
Any young person can informally change the name by which they are known, and the Scottish Government’s guidance suggests that teachers and school staff should respect this.
The Daily Mail article refers to letting pupils “change gender aged FOUR”. The guidance states that “some young people are exploring their gender identity in primary school settings”, but urges that careful professional judgement be used to “ensure support offered is age appropriate”.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False
The headline in the Daily Mail article is misleading. The guidance states that young people who change their pronouns and wish to be known by a different name should be supported and this should not be denied to them. Pupils are free to use any name or pronouns they feel comfortable with, and the guidance encourages school staff to respect a person’s chosen identity. If someone who is under 16 wants to change their sex formally, the document recommends this should be done with their parents or caregivers permission.
Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Go to ideas.theferret.scot, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Facebook group.
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