Support for transgender young people
In this section:
- Getting it Right for Every Child
- Conﬁdentiality, information sharing and child protection
- Working with parents, carers and families
- How teachers can help transgender young people and their family relationships
- Support and referrals for transgender young people
This section includes advice on how best to support an individual young person in school, and covers some common concerns such as conﬁdentiality and working with parents and carers.
Getting it Right for Every Child
As part of the Getting it right for every child approach, every child, young person and parent has a named person who can provide initial advice, information and support where requested, as well as access to wider support. The named person will usually be the Head teacher or deputy head teacher in primary schools or a promoted or principal teacher involved in personal support in secondary schools. The named person can consider the wellbeing needs of the child or young person and can discuss the provision of support to address any needs, including support for transgender pupils. Where needs are identified across a range of services, there should be a child's plan where beneficial. The named person can arrange a lead professional to be responsible for co-ordinating and reviewing a child's plan.
Any consideration of wellbeing should be holistic and based on the child or young person's family and unique circumstances. This includes recognising their strengths and understanding factors that affect their resilience. This approach is supported through the National Practice Model and a range of tools which enable school staff to use a common language and approach with each other and with children, young people and parents.
While the aim of a named person is that there is someone there for every child, young person or parent if needed, there is no obligation to use the named person for support if a child, young person or parent would prefer to access information and support through another person or service.
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 requires education authorities to identify, provide for and to review the additional support needs of their pupils. An additional support need is caused by a barrier to their learning and can be of short or long-term duration. As part of the Getting it Right for Every Child approach schools should consider the support that may be required in order to overcome any barrier to their learning. Further information on additional support for learning is available at page 60.
Conﬁdentiality, information sharing and child protection
Conﬁdentiality and privacy is important to transgender young people. They can worry about people disclosing information about their gender identity to others, and/or about professionals taking action which they have not agreed to.
National Child protection guidelines require agencies and professionals, including teachers to follow particular procedures for conﬁdentiality and information sharing. But, being transgender is not a child protection issue in itself. If there is a child protection issue, this should be speciﬁed and the school's child protection guidelines followed.
- It is important to respect a young person's right to privacy.
- Being transgender is not a child protection issue or wellbeing concern in itself.
- Young people should be involved in all decisions affecting them and understand what is happening and why.
- If a young person wishes to 'come out' in a school setting, information may need to be shared. Teachers should consider who to tell and how; taking into account the young person's view and legal requirements on this.
- A transgender young person may not have told their family about their gender identity. Inadvertent disclosure could cause needless stress for the young person or could put them at risk and breach legal requirements. Therefore, it is best to not share information with parents or carers without considering and respecting the young person's views and rights.
- A transgender young person may wish to change schools as part of their transition process. Their previous name does not need to be shared with the new school. It is not necessary for all staff in a receiving school to know that the young person is transgender. Please see pages 22-25 for further information on school records.
- Young people ﬁnd it increasingly difﬁcult to maintain their privacy. Teachers may need to support young people if personal information becomes common knowledge though social media or online forums.
- If information about a young person's gender identity is to be made public, there should be an agreed procedure on how to respond to questions from other young people, teachers and parents/carers to ensure staff give consistent information. It will be helpful to make their parents and carers aware at an early stage whenever possible.
Working with parents, carers and families
The UNCRC explicitly recognises the central role played by parents and families in ensuring that children grow up healthy, happy and safe. It states that: "the family, as the fundamental group in society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community"
And goes on to recognise: "that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding".
Evidence shows that young people who have parents who are supportive of their transgender identity are more likely to have good mental health, including improved self-esteem and reduced rates of depression.
Responses to a transgender young person coming out can vary but the majority of parents and carers will want to do what is in the best interests of their child. Of course, some parents and carers may have very legitimate questions about what it means and what will happen next. Others may react negatively because they have inaccurate or incomplete information, or because they are worried about what it will mean for their child and their future. Such reactions often stem from loving and wanting to protect their child.
Parents and carers may have different views from the transgender young person. If this is the case teachers and school staff can assist by creating opportunities for young people to have their views heard and by developing a support plan for the transgender young person in the first instance. Parents and carers may also need additional support to discuss their feelings. For information on sources of support please see page 40.
Whatever the home situation, schools should continue to keep the young person involved in decisions which affect them. This could mean giving the young person the opportunity to voice opinions which differ from their parents and carers. The siblings of transgender young people may also require additional support. They may need space and time to process what is happening, or may be at risk of experiencing bullying from peers. Allowing them an opportunity to talk, and reassuring them that the school is committed to their wellbeing, can be beneﬁcial.
How teachers can help transgender young people and their family relationships
School staff, including teachers can help by:
- working with young people to agree what they need from their parents/carers
- speaking on behalf of a young person who cannot tell their parents/carers what they need
- providing support or referrals for support to alleviate any distress in the home
- providing a safe space for transgender young people to be themselves and have their identities respected
Schools have a welfare responsibility towards young people, and may have to support the young person if decisions need to be made about a young person's wellbeing. Teachers should always provide impartial information and guidance which prioritises a young person's wellbeing.
It is important to recognise the contribution parents/carers can make, and to ﬁnd solutions by working collaboratively with young people.
- If the young person has not told their family, school staff may want to discuss the most likely reaction with the young person. This will allow the teacher and the young person to discuss whether sharing information is in the young person's best interests, and if so, what information to share and with whom.
- Offer to arrange a meeting with parents or carers; agree this with the young person in advance of the meeting and mutually agree key information to be shared in the discussion and by whom.
- Listen to the concerns of parents and carers without judging them; respond to concerns calmly; and correct any misconceptions.
- The Getting it right for every child approach will keep the young person and parents at the centre of any consideration of wellbeing; and, the identification and agreement of responses and support. Parents and carers may need time to come to terms with what their child has told them. Teachers can help by letting them know about sources of information and support (see below).
If a teacher is concerned about the home environment or the safety of a young person, they should follow the school's child protection policy and procedures for recording and/or acting on such concerns.
Support and referrals for transgender young people
All young people should know where they can go and who they can speak to if they need support.
Schools can help by telling young people (and their families) about support services, for example through posters, websites and social media, and in assemblies, lessons and activities.
There are a range of organisations which provide support and advice to young people about their wellbeing. Schools and education authorities will have local arrangements for the provision of support for health and wellbeing. Organisations such as Childline can provide a source of advice and information and online support for all young people on their wellbeing.
LGBT Youth Scotland runs youth groups across Scotland for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people aged 13 to 25. This includes speciﬁc services for transgender young people in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries.
LGBT Youth Scotland also provides online support through social media, email and live chat. Here, young people can chat to youth workers about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or any other issue. The service is particularly useful for young people in rural areas where there are limited services or for those who are not ready to attend youth groups.
Support and referrals for parents and carers
Agencies that provide advice and support to parents of transgender children include:
- Transparentsees: groups for parents, carers and other family members of trans people, based at the Sandyford Clinic, Glasgow. At present they also run groups in Edinburgh, Perth and Elgin. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for details
- Mermaids: a UK-wide organisation which works to reduce isolation and loneliness for parents and young people dealing with gender issues and to empower families and young people: www.mermaidsuk.org.uk, email: email@example.com, helpline number: 0344 344 0550
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